Did a Tactical Error Cost Indian Badminton Team Gold at Commonwealth Games?
Kidambi Srikanth in action in the final of the mixed doubles badminton event at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Tuesday.
It was always going to be a tight encounter that could go either way. While India failing to defend its Commonwealth Games mixed team badminton gold in Birmingham is disappointing, they lost to a formidable side in Malaysia. Just that, we are all left with a wee bit of “what if” in our heads. Did India miss a beat by fielding Srikanth and not the in-form Lakshya Sen in the singles match of the final tie?
Srikanth was preferred over Sen, India’s top ranked player at World No. 10, and who had beaten world champion Loh Kean Yew in the semifinal tie against Singapore. Of course both Sen and Srikanth have a 2-0 win record against Tze Yong Ng before the CWG final. Yong Ng was in the mix in place of the injured Lee Zii Jia, Malaysia’s top singles player. The opportunity was there for India to explore that weak link in the Malaysian line-up.
While the call also has its merits -- the Indian team management might have swayed towards Srikanth considering his experience -- Sen’s form and confidence, possibly, could have been the X factor for India. A tactical call which backfired, we are left wondering if the think-tank had swayed toward current form than experience, India would have ended a rung above on the podium.
Only PV Sindhu managed a victory in the final tie while Kidambi Srikanth, who was expected to lead the charge, came up with an underwhelming performance as India lost 1-3 to earn silver on Tuesday.
The men's doubles pair of Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty went down in the opening doubles to Olympic bronze medallists Teng Fong Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh. That set the tone for the final. India’s chances depended a lot on Rankireddy-Shetty creating an upset victory but that was not to be. Sindhu pulled things back to equal terms in the second match of the tie as expected but she was made to sweat by the lower ranked Goh Jin Wei.
Srikanth then lost to lower-ranked Tze Yong Ng in three games as Malaysia regained the advantage. They sealed the gold medal, regaining their hold on the CWG title, when the World No. 11 duo of Thinaah Muralitharan and Koong Le Pearly Tan made short work of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly in the women's doubles.
The women’s doubles and mixed doubles Indian pairs were always the weak link. The onus of victory lay squarely on the men’s doubles and the singles players. So, India lost to a deeper and stronger side and the players do understand that even as they refocus for their individual pursuits at the Games.
A disappointed Sindhu, while reflecting on the loss, said it was not India's day.
"Well, I gave my team a point but unfortunately, the men's singles and the women’s doubles could not do it,” she told reporters after the tie. “They tried their best but only one can win and one has to lose. It was not our day, is what I felt and overall we secured a silver and I think it is important now to go back, relax and come back and start our individuals soon.
“So it is important to be focused on that too," she added.
At the last edition of the CWG on the Gold Coast, Australia, Sindhu won silver In the women's singles event, losing to Saina Nehwal in the final. She is keen to go one up this time around.
"Definitely hoping for the best and hoping for the gold but it is important to give my best in every single match and it is not going to be easy because it depends on that particular day, is what I feel. Because I know the conditions, how they are, they keep changing, so it is important to be focused from the first point, from the first day," Sindhu said.
Srikanth, shattered after the loss, would also attempt to refocus. He was, apparently, blaming himself, said teammate Rankireddy. The Indian team management would be hoping their star player gathers himself back for the singles pursuit.
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