Ajay, Diju gear up for Thomas Cup Asia Zone

New Delhi: Ace shuttler Ajay Jayaram is confident but senior doubles player V Diju feels it would be tough to qualify for the knockout stage when they lead the Indian challenge at the prestigious Thomas Cup (Asia Zone) tournament, starting in Macau on Sunday.

India has been clubbed with Indonesia, Singapore and Macau in Group B and Jayaram, who will make his debut in Thomas Cup, said they can reach the knockout stage with a collective effort.

"I am very excited to play in the Thomas Cup, this is the first time I will be representing my country and I give my everything to help India win," said Jayaram.

"I will be playing the first singles. I have not seen the draw but I know if we can play collectively as a team, we can reach the knockout stage," said the Chennai-born shuttler, who reached the pre-quarterfinals in his maiden World Championship last year.

While Jayaram will play the first singles, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist P Kashyap and national champion Sourabh Verma are likely to play the second and third singles and V Diju will star in one doubles.

The experienced duo of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas will play the other doubles.

"The draw is not decided yet, it will be out only tomorrow. We need to target Macau and Singapore to top the group but this time it will be a little tough to qualify as in case we lose to Indonesia then we will be up against Korea or Malaysia," Diju said.

India plays Singapore tomorrow, before taking on Macau and Indonesia on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the second stage, where the top team from one group will clash against the second best team of another group.

Four teams -- the semifinalists, thus, will reach the Thomas Cup Finals in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in the People`s Republic of China from May 20-27.