The Siri Fort badminton courts in New Delhi have been the temporary base of the Indian team ahead of the Thomas and Uber Cup. Being first-time hosts of the Finals of the prestigious team championships has given India an obvious home advantage. A plus being that the squad of 20 players and an almost equal number of support staff have been able to camp here in the capital, train and stay together.
The drift, caused by the air-conditioning in a badminton hall, has been accounted for as training sessions were held on the main courts where matches will begin from Sunday. Drift is a factor beyond the control of a shuttler, more so at Asian venues where high temperatures mean the A/C is set to full blast, and can upset the rhythm of a player if he or she does not quickly adjust to the kind of forces the air puts on a shuttle.
Nothing is being left to chance when it comes to the home team.
Commuting for the 6 am practice sessions has also been made hassle-free with the Indian contingent staying in a hotel just a stone’s throw from the courts before they moved to the five-star accommodation in central Delhi.
To shore up the coaching staff, former national coach U Vimal Kumar, Anup Sridhar and Arvind Bhat — singles players of recent vintage — have been added to the Indian team to complement chief national coach P Gopichand and Madhumita Bisht. The presence of Indonesians have gone up to three with two sparring partners for doubles players. Doubles coach Dwi Christiano, who has been a longer fixture in the coaching set-up, is being assisted by Vijaydeep Singh.
The Indian team arriving for practice can be classified as a platoon. But even this strength in numbers is dwarfed when the Chinese roll onto the practice courts.
The Chinese have been the gold standard in world badminton — dominating the world rankings and the marquee competitions — and they have been the yardstick by which Indians also judge their own status in the sport, where they have experienced a recent upswing with the rise of singles star Saina Nehwal and more recently PV Sindhu.
But in team competitions of the Thomas and Uber Cup, individual spurts of excellence will not suffice. Three singles players and two doubles pairs have to be fielded in a five-match tie which will provide a clearer reflection of the overall strength and depth of talent of a nation in this sport.
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