All you need to know about a historic final for Indian badminton versus Indonesia

0

Having made their way to a first ever final, India will take on Indonesia, the most successful side in the history of Thomas Cup badminton in Bangkok on Sunday.

HS Prannoy secured the vital point as India shocked one of the pre-tournament favourites Denmark in Thailand on Friday (early Saturday) to reach the finals of the Thomas Cup men’s badminton tournament for the first time.

Danish world champion Viktor Axelsen had provided some early inspiration in the semi-finals for his team – making quick work of India’s Lakshya Sen – sealing victory in 49 minutes, 21-13, 21-13. In the end, India and Denmark were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, and 13th ranked Rasmus Gemke was unable to overcome Prannoy, who is 23rd in the world.

Here’s everything you need to know before you sit down for the summit clash:

So why is Thomas Cup a big deal?

The Thomas Cup is the name that the tournament has always had but in the BWF calendar currently it is recognised as the World Men’s Team Championships. (Uber Cup, the World Women’s Team Championships.)

“[Thomas Cup] honours Sir George Thomas, legendary Founder-President of the International Badminton Federation (now BWF), who was keen that badminton should have its own version of the Davis Cup in tennis,” as per the official website.

Overall, Indonesia lead the tally with 14 titles; while Indonesia’s dominance till 2002 was unmatched China, winner of 10 titles, won five straight from 2004 to 2012. India’s semifinal opponents this time, Denmark, created history in 2016 as they became the first non-Asian country to win the Thomas Cup, which they did beating Indonesia in the final in Kunshan.

Read more about the Thomas and Uber Cup history here.

What’s India’s history like in the tournament?

The best in the past were semi-final equivalent performances in 1952, 1955 and 1979… but in the era of gold and silver for finalists and bronze for losing semi-finalists, India had never reached the podium.

Recent winners of Thomas Cup (men)

  • 2010 – Host Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur); Champion – China
  • 2012 – Host China (Wuhan); Champion – China
  • 2014 – Host India (New Delhi); Champion – Japan
  • 2016 – Host China (Kunshan); Champion – Denmark
  • 2018 – Host Thailand (Bangkok); Champion – China
  • 2020 – Host Denmark (Aarhus) in 2021; Champion – Indonesia

What has changed this year?

“There’s a lot of reasons (for that) but this time, I think it was one of the best Indian teams to come into Thomas Cup,” HS Prannoy said after the Malaysia win. “Look at the team, everybody is stepping up and everybody wants to prove a point. I think that’s very important because this is for the next generation to come from India. We all want them to see that we are right up there in the world and especially in a team event, you always write off India but this time, we said that we are just going to fight until the end, no matter what.”

Thomas Cup full squad

Singles: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Priyanshu Rajawat

Doubles: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, M.R Arjun, Dhruv Kapila, Krishna Prasad Garaga, Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala

What’s been India’s road to the final?

India started their group stage matches with 5-0 wins over Germany and Canada and that was enough to guaranteed them passage into the knockout stages. Against the higher seeded opponent Chinese Taipei to decide the group topper, India lost a close match 2-3 but certainly had their chances to reverse the result. Their best performances came in the knockouts against Malaysia and Denmark.

The quarterfinal win against Malaysia saw them be assured of a medal in this modern history of the tournament for the first ever time (losing semifinalists win bronze) and they went one step further by defeating second seeds Denmark.

Who are India facing in the final?

The most successful side in the history of Thomas Cup. Indonesia, the defending champions, are the 14-time tile winners of this event. The 2020 edition (postponed) saw Indonesia top the podium after a long wait of 19 years, as they were stuck on 13 titles since 2002.

So, is it like a David v Goliath scenario? What are India’s chances?

Not quite. While Indonesia have the pedigree in this tournament over the years, on paper, India can certainly fancy their chances. The defending champions will certainly start as the favourites, mainly down to their squad depth (particularly in doubles) and past experience of playing high level team tournaments. Six of the seven players who will (likely) take to the court on Sunday in Bangkok were also part of the final lineup when Indonesia defeated China to reclaim the title after a long wait in 2021.

The defending champions will be unchanged from semifinal while India bring back Dhruv/Arjun for MD2 to replace Krishna Prasad/Vishnuvardhan. HS Prannoy good to go for MS3 after an injury scare in the semifinal, should he be needed by then. The tie will end the moment any team wins three matches.

Indonesia start off with Anthony Ginting, who has come alive in the knockouts after losing three matches in the group stages (even though Indonesia went on to win all three ties). Ginting has since beaten Zhao Jun Peng and Kento Momota. Lakshya, however, at his best can challenge Ginting. The Indian recently defeated the Indonesian 21-7, 21-9 in Germany in their only previous meeting.

The doubles tie features one half of the world No 2 pair ‘Daddies’ and one half of the world No 1 ‘Minions’ for the Indonesians. Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are two of the greatest the game has seen and are pairing together in this tournament with the other minion, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, absent due to rehab.

Jonatan Christie was the hero for Indonesia in Aarhus, as he clinched two knockout ties. Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Ardianto are recently crowned Asian champions. And in Shesar Hiren Rhustavito, world No 24 and a former world No 17, Indonesia have a strong MS3 player who’s been there and done that in these events.

“We have a quite balanced team, the doubles are contributing immensely. All the players have played exceptionally well and pulled out matches from close situations. So I feel we have a 50-50 chance against Indonesia,” former India coach Vimal Kumar, who is with the team, told PTI.

What’s the timing? Where to watch?

The match starts at 11.30 am IST on Sunday and in India, can be seen live on Sports18 television channel and Voot Select streaming app, the latter for free as per the platform.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.