Its David vs Goliath as India is up against 14- time champion Indonesia in the Thomas Cup Final
Written by : Abhilash Jha
India may be playing its first final of the Thomas Cup against 14-times champion Indonesia, but it will go into the contest with confidence. As three of its likely participants in Sunday’s encounter have a winning head-to-head record against their Indonesian counterparts.
The South-East Asian behemoth is dealing with the absence of crucial players due to injuries, while some of its remaining mainstays have blown hot and cold in the team championships.
Should things come together, it’s very possible that India might not even need the final match heroics by HS Prannoy to decide the tie.
India has made it to the historic final in the Thomas Cup partly because of Lakshya Sen’s high ranking that has enabled the side to field Kidambi Srikanth and H.S. Prannoy as its second and third choice singles players.
I think Prannoy played a very clever game last night. He has adjusted very well to the drift. And a great thing about this team is the team spirit. Everyone is helping each other. The win against Denmark was very special. They are tough. I think India has arrived at the big stage. Reaching the finals is going to give a lot of boost to the game in India. I am also very happy with our first doubles players. They have had a superb tournament. – U Vimal Kumar
Lakshya Sen’s own form, though, hasn’t quite matched up. He’s lost every match against a higher-ranked player (Chou Tien Chen, Lee Zii Jia and Viktor Axelsen), leaving India trailing on each occasion. He faces another higher-ranked player in Olympic bronze medallist Anthony Ginting.
This is a stylistic matchup that might work in the Indian’s favour, though. The Indonesian loves fast exchanges and the last (and only) time the two played – just a couple of months ago at the German Open. He was badly frustrated by the Indian’s frenetic defence in a 21-7 21-9 loss.
No Minions as partner
Like the Malaysians, and Denmark before them, Indonesia is fielding a scratch pairing – Kevin Sanjaya usually partners Marcus Gideon, while Mohammad Ahsan is paired with Hendra Setiawan. While Indonesia would have loved to go with the two original pairings, an injury to Gideon has forced a rethink.
Although Indonesia fielded Sanjaya with Bagas Maulana in the tie against Thailand, every subsequent match has seen one of the minions (Kevin and Gideon) partner Ahsan. While the original pairings were almost unbeatable, scratch pairs are invariably vulnerable.
Sanjaya and Ahsan went down to Kang Minhyuk and Seo Seungjae of Korea before beating the World No. 4 pair of Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan in the semis. But that was a hard match in which they were down three game points in the opener and a match point in the decider before sneaking out a 22-20, 8-21, 24-22 win.
All this means Chirag Shetty and Satwik Rankireddy, who otherwise had a dismal 0-11 record against the combination of Kevin and Gideon and lost 2-3 record against Ahsan and Setiawan, will go into their doubles tie having won their only tie against Sanjaya
and Ahsan – 18-21, 21-18, 24-22 in the Badminton Asia Championships in 2018.
India’s Singles Strength
Srikanth has been critical to India’s success at the Thomas Cup this year, winning all five matches he’s played. His stroke play is as effortless as ever but there’s a grit to the Indian that’s not often been on display over the last few seasons. He had to dig deep to pull out a crucial 21-18, 12-21, 21-15 win over Anders Antonsen in the semifinal against Denmark. He’ll probably be tested once again by Asian
Games gold medallist Christie, who himself has found a rich vein of form this year after a few dry seasons.
Source Indian Express
Christie has beaten Srikanth twice this season already but he’s coming off a surprise defeat to Kenta Nishimoto of Japan in the Thomas Cup semis – which made Indonesia’s progress to the final a lot more challenging than it needed to be. Assuming he has reasonably recovered from an awkward-looking fall he suffered against Rasmus Gemke in the Thomas Cup semifinals against Denmark.
Prannoy,ranked 23 will back himself to make this 3-0 in career head-to-heads against Rhustavito, ranked 24. He might struggle in long tournaments, but he’s been in his element at the team events, winning the decider in both of India’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
He’s probably the strongest third singles player in this tournament and he’s justified that reputation. Key to India’s success in Bangkok is his ability to keep mistakes down to a minimum, while still managing to hit the lines when he’s gone on the attack. Bubbling with confidence, Prannoy should be hard to beat if he needs to finish things for India in another decider.
Match Time | 11:30 am
Telecast | Voot & Sports18
Venue | Bangkok Thailand