Saina, Srikanth to lead Indian team in Thomas and Uber Cup
New Delhi: London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and Thailand Grand Prix champion K Srikanth will spearhead the Indian challenge at the Li-Ning BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals to be held at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here from May 18 to 25.
The 24-year-old Saina will lead charge in the Uber Cup competition and world No. 18 Srikanth will be shouldering the responsibility in the Thomas Cup as India went with five singles and five doubles players in both the squads, selected on the basis of world rankings.
With the maximum number of players allowed in the squad being 10, many teams have gone for four singles and six doubles players.
Besides Saina, other singles members in the Uber Cup team include world champion bronze medallist P V Sindhu, National Games champion Arundhati Pantawane, world No. 57 Tanvi Laad, world No. 65 P C Thulasi.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who recently won a bronze at the Asian Badminton Championship, will lead in doubles while others in same section include Aparna Balan, N Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre.
"Uber Cup is the biggest tournament in India and we are focussed to do well. We have got a decent draw. We need to focus and give our best and play with confidence and I am sure we will do well," Ashwini told PTI.
In Thomas Cup, the other singles members include world No. 21 Parupalli Kashyap, world No. 30 R M V Guru Sai Dutt, world No. 35 Sourabh Varma, while world No. 52 B Sai Praneeth have been selected ahead of world No. 42 H S Prannoy and world No. 49 Anand Pawar.
"It is a prestigious tournament and there are no easy draws here. It is difficult to predict where we will finish in the tournament. The team will give their best in every match and I think we should get into the last-eight stages in Uber Cup," chief coach Pullela Gopichand said.
"The men`s draw is tough. But I think except for Lee Chong Wei, every singles match we have a chance," he added.
Meanwhile, world champion Lin Dan and world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei will lead the parade of star badminton players when the prestigious biennial team championships gets underway for the first time in India.
Dan, who won his fifth world title last year, has not been very active on the international circuit this year, but he has been still named in the Chinese squad as their fourth singles player. This would mean that the world No. 58 can only play the third singles in any match.
As per the rules of the tie, the singles players are nominated to play the rubbers according to their world rankings and hence the last ranked player in the team has to play the third singles.
The other singles members in the Chinese team include world No. 2 Chen Long, world No. 6 Pengyu Du and world No. 16 Houwei Tian, who has been picked ahead of world No. 7 Zhengming Wang as the defending champions look to rewrite history by becoming the first team to win the Thomas Cup crown for a sixth successive time.
In the Uber Cup, the Chinese have named a formidable team with Olympic champion and world No. 1 Li Xuerui leading the charge along with world No. 2 Shixian Wang and world No. 3 Yihan Wang.
Apart from having a top-class Chinese feast, the badminton lovers will also get to watch the likes of world champion Ratchanok Intanon (Indonesian), who has recovered from her heel injury, world No. 5 Ji Hyun Sung and Yeon Ju Bae, both from Korea.
Men: K Srikanth, P Kashyap, RMV Guru Sai Dutt, Sourabh Varma, B Sai Praneeth (singles) Pranaav Jerry Chopra, Akshay Dewalkar, Manu Attri, Arun Vishnu and B Sumeeth Reddy (doubles)
Women: Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Arundhati Pantawane, Tanvi Laad, PC Thulasi (singles), Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Aparna Balan, N Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre (doubles).