While Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa took sniping shots at selectors for not bolstering the CWG team with enough doubles players and focussing only on singles, it was hard to miss the irony that only the singles players could pull off their matches at the Emirates Arena, as India went down 3-2 to Singapore to lose the bronze.
Prior to the Games, there was talk of India being possible contenders for a Mixed Team-gold after Lee Chong Wei pulled out, seemingly weakening Malaysia. However, India’s challenge dissipated in the knockouts, even as Malaysia did defend their gold, and for the first time since 2002, India failed to get onto the team podium in badminton.
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India’s glaring pitfall of doubles — there’s three pairs matches in the CWG format — is well-documented. But the blame is tough to affix, given the quality of existing combinations is abysmal, and even the established ones like Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa could not pull off the deciding match against Singapore. They lost 17-21, 27-29, and not pouncing on five match points after the teams were tied at 2-2 (Kashyap and Sindhu won), meant that there were letdowns all around.
“We are particularly disappointed as we won a silver last time. But it is difficult without a specialist mixed doubles player. It affects the team event. There is a lot of pressure on you when you have three matches to win,” Gutta said later.
The criticism falls squarely on coach P Gopichand who attempted to use the all-round defensive capabilities of Guru Sai Dutt in mixed doubles against Malaysia. However, after V Diju, none of the doubles pretenders have really stepped up and the coach regularly falls back on his singles players in the vain hope that the surprise factor can flick them a tie.
Coach Madhumita Bisht was reduced to closing her eyes and praying for the women’s pair to pull off their match, and was caught on the big screen and television in what looked like a shut-eye. She insisted she was only invoking divine intervention, but Indian hopes would rather rest on a wing and a (winning) pair rather than desperate prayers from a court-side coach.