India’s campaign Thailand Open is certainly not turning out what they have expected. Coming from a long force majeure, Indian badminton players caught stuck with poor performances, first-round-exits, injuries and whatnot. Though Thailand Open doesn’t carry Olympic qualification rankings any more, seeing it as a comeback tournament for Indians, it was disheartening. With Japan and China, two powerhouses of badminton pulling out of the tournament, India had a significant opportunity lost.
Chances existed for Rio Olympics silver medallist PV Sindhu, who lost to Mia Blenchfeldt in the first round and HS Prannoy, who was shown the exit gate by Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia. Former world number 1 Saina Nehwal might be feeling on cloud 9 for varied reasons, first when she was cleared to play Thailand Open after her RT-PCR came positive but doctors told that she has antibodies in her body which means she will not affect anyone, and second when she cruised to the second round after outsmarting Kisona Salvaduray 21-15, 21-15 in the first round. However, Saina failed to prosper beyond it. Barring few, all the other Indian shuttlers participating in the tournament have disappointed not just their own self but also BAI, who might be apprehensive over future Asian leg results now and marquee event, Tokyo Olympics 2021.
Why there seems a clear lack of intent among Indian shuttlers? Badminton has been one of the premier sports for India. It has produced medals at the last two Olympics—London and Rio de Janeiro—and at the World Championships too. Indians are now looking forward to the postponed Tokyo Olympics for their favourite shuttlers to shine.
The Olympic qualification will start in February and will end with the India Open (May 11-16). The qualification will be determined from the Race to Tokyo Rankings which will be published on 18 May 2021. Only four shuttlers — P V Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and the doubles men’s pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty — looks eligible for the Olympics. There were seven in the Rio one and five in London.
Former World No. 1 Srikanth and London Olympic bronze medallist Saina have have a steep road ahead to qualify for Tokyo. They have to reach the quarters and semifinals in at least two-three qualifiers to get a chance. From TOPS scheme to other benefits, Indian government has provided enough support to our shuttlers. All will be determined by their internt and perseverance to make it to Olympics.