India start favourites against Kazakhstan in Badminton Asia Mixed Team C’ships opener

Dubai, 13 Feb: Spearheaded by a fit-again and rejuvenated PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy, India will fancy their chances against Kazakhstan in their opening Group B tie at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023, starting here on Tuesday.
Two-time Olympic medallist and world No.7 Sindhu has recovered completely from a stress fracture that kept her out of action for five months last year and is gunning for success in the new season.
After winning the gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the injury forced Sindhu to pull out of the World Championships and also missed the remainder of the last season.
Having made a scratchy start to the new season in the Malaysia Open and India Open at home, Sindhu is itching for success and would be going full throttle here.
Sindhu’s back-up in the women’s singles is 32nd-ranked Aakarshi Kashyap, winner of the Bangladesh International Challenge last month.
The men’s singles will be led by world No.8 Prannoy and will also have world No.10 Lakshay Sen.
In men’s doubles, Chirag Shetty will partner Dhruv Kapila in the absence of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who has pulled out of the event due to a hip injury.
The other Indian pair in the men’s doubles is Krishna Prasad Garga and Vishnuvardhan Goud P.
In Satwik’s absence, the men’s doubles remains India’s weakest link as it will be very difficult for Kapila to pair up with Shetty and deliver against the top men’s combinations of other Asian countries.
Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand will be the lead pair in women’s doubles and will also have Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam as back-up. Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto will be the only Indian pair to shoulder the mixed doubles duties.
Players ranked in the top-10 received direct entries, while the rest of the squad was chosen through selection trials.
India’s toughest opponents in the group will be Commonwealth Games champions Malaysia against whom they lost in Birmingham. The other team is host UAE.
The top two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the quarter-finals and, barring upsets, India and Malaysia are expected to progress from Group B.
But the topper of the group will be decided after India’s second tie, which is against Malaysia on Wednesday before they round off their league engagements against UAE on Thursday.
Lakshya Sen expects India to sail into the quarter-finals.
“We have a strong team. The draw of group stage is okay, should not be difficult. I think we can qualify for the quarter-final. In knockout, it will be one match at a time,” Sen told PTI.
In the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2017, India made the quarter-finals, while in 2019 they failed to get past the group stage.
The tournament returns after three years as the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seventeen countries will fight it out for the continental crown in the event to be held from February 14 to 19 at the Dubai Exhibition Centre. (PTI)