Saina Nehwal to lead Uber Cup team; No Chirag-Satwik in Thomas Cup

September 7, 2020

Thomas Cup

A young women’s team shepherded by senior pro Saina Nehwal and the absence of men’s doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are the highlights of the Indian probables for the upcoming Thomas Uber Cup Indian squad announced by Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Sunday. It’ll be a good opportunity for Aakarshi Kashyap and Ashmita Chaliha to step up and display their progress.

PV Sindhu had earlier opted out of the event, while Satwiksairaj is yet to recover from the Covid-19 infection and will take longer to hit the high pitch of intense training in time for the Denmark sojourn.

Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon are other notable pullouts with Taipei team and some top Thailand shuttlers not risking travel. Confirmation of China and Korea squads is awaited, while Malaysia announced a strong squad.

The 26 shuttlers will be based at Pullela Gopichand SAI Badminton Academy in Hyderabad from Monday till September 27. Given the difficulties of maintaining a bio-secure environment, the entire bunch will need to reside and train at the camp itself. A SAI official will travel to Hyderabad to ensure compliance with SOPs.

The Thomas and Uber Cup is scheduled to take place in Aarhus, Denmark from October 3 to 11.

“Since most of the players have been out of touch and away from active badminton for more than five months now it was important to conduct a national camp ahead of the Thomas & Uber Cup, hence it was decided to go ahead with the preparatory camp. We are grateful to SAI for helping with the Camp and all the support in creating a safe and secure environment for the players and support staff. This camp will give our shuttlers a much-needed time to get back the required momentum and prepare themselves ahead of the final selection,” BAI Secretary Ajay Singhania said.

While the top two men’s singles players, Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth are slotted in the team, senior Parupalli Kashyap joins youngster Lakshya Sen amongst the singles shuttlers. Sen will travel to Hyderabad on Tuesday.

In Satwik-Chirag’s absence, India’s doubles responsibilities will be shouldered by experienced Olympians Manu Attri – Sumeeth Reddy, backed by the talented MR Arjun – Dhruv Kapila.

Shubhankar Dey who played well in the Asian TUC qualifiers, is in with a good chance to get assured game time. Young Siril Verma gets another shy to make the playing squad.

In the Uber Cup, Saina leads the young bunch comprising Ashmita Chaliha, Aakarshi Kashyap, Malvika Bansod and Ira Sharma.

With an ambitious second and third singles, it’ll be upto the dependable Ashwini Ponappa and Sikki Reddy to push for another point and also mentor the younger doubles players like Sanjana Santosh and Ashwini Bhatt.

Meghna Jakkampudi and Poorvisha Ram are in the mix too.

Seven coaches, 4 support staff and 3 sparring partners are part of the camp.

“All the players, coaches and support staff will have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR test for Covid -19 before they travel to Hyderabad and would only be allowed in the academy, once they produce COVID-19 Negative certificate. Once they are at the academy, they will be isolated and tested again on the sixth day of the quarantine and would only be allowed in the field of play once they have cleared the second round of COVID -19 test. SAI officials will educate players and staff on the process to be followed and necessary precautions to be taken during the course of their stay at the academy,” the release stated.

Seeded fifth, the Indian men’s team has been placed in Group C alongside 2016 champions Denmark, Germany and Algeria, while the women’s side runs into 14-time winners China, France and Germany in Group D.

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