Though no Indian shuttler made it to the weekend rounds — Parupalli Kashyap and Saina Nehwal were ousted in the singles quarterfinals on Friday — the 2014 India Open had its positives for the home fans. Kashyap beat China’s World No. 7 Wang Zhengming — an opponent he had lost to three times previously — in round one, while B Sai Praneeth took Du Pengyu to three games, losing 21-19 in the decider and Anand Pawar went down in the decider to World No. 4 Jan O Jorgensen.
In the women’s singles, PV Sindhu also stretched eventual champion Wang Shixian to three games. While there was no medal, there was enough promise.
However, results in the doubles format were disheartening. Out of the 20 pairs — men, women and mixed — who competed in the main draw, only two made it to the second round and only Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa advanced courtesy a win. The other pair of Dhanya Nair and Mohita Sahdev survived courtesy a walkover.
Little was expected of the doubles pairs. In the four years of the India Open, an Indian doubles pair has reached the quarterfinals only twice. Normally, this wouldn’t have been much of a concern as doubles is an afterthought in India — an additional men’s singles tie replaced the women’s doubles at the inaugural Indian Badminton League.
This might come back to haunt Indian badminton.
In the next few months, India have to take part in a number of team competitons — the Thomas and Uber Cups next month, before the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games roll around towards the end of the year.
Doubles is bound to play an important role since mixed team events — such as the CWG — have three doubles and two singles rubbers, while the others have two doubles rubbers. At the 2010 Uber Cup, Korea managed to stun then 11-time champion China 3-1 in the final tie largely as their doubles pair won both their games.
To compound the problem, the country’s best doubles player, Jwala Gutta, who teamed up with V Diju in mixed doubles and Ashwini Ponappa in women’s doubles at the last CWG, is nowhere near her best.
Faced with hard draws, India don’t stand a chance at the Thomas and Uber Cups. Things will be slightly simpler at the CWG, where India won a silver medal last time behind Malaysia, though this time, England, Hong Kong and Singapore, who bank heavily on their doubles pairs, will have a better shot.
Indian badminton better be ready for the consequences.
(Jonathan is a senior correspondent. He is based in New Delhi.)