The Indian men’s team assured itself of a medal after progressing to the semifinals with a thrilling 3-2 win over Thailand at the Badminton Asia Team Championships here on Friday. After star shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and B Sai Praneeth faced reversals in the first two singles ties, India fought back to win the next three ties, which included a single and two doubles rubbers, to prevail over Thailand in the quarterfinals and set up a last four meeting with two-time defending champions Indonesia.
The men’s team had last won a bronze after losing 1-3 to Indonesia in the semifinals of the 2016 Hyderabad edition. World Championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth started the proceedings, but his gallant effort ended in a 14-21 21-14 12-21 loss to world No. 12 Kantaphon Wangcharoen, as India lagged 0-1.
In the second singles, former world No. 1 Srikanth went down 20-22 14-21 to Kunlavut Vitidsarn, a three-time world junior champion, as India slipped to 0-2.
The pairing of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila kept India in the hunt with a 21-18 22-20 win over Kittinupong Kedren and Tanupat Viriyangkura in the first doubles.
Young Lakshya Sen, who had a stellar run in 2019 with five titles, then registered a 21-19 21-18 win over world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon to bring India back on level terms.
It then all boiled down to the makeshift pair of Chirag Shetty and Srikanth and the Indian duo dished out a superb game to outwit the pairing of Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Phuangphuapet 21-15 16-21 21-15 in the deciding second doubles tie.
“It is an incredible result for us considering the fact that we didn’t have Satwiksairaj (Rankireddy) and we generally depend on the singles to get us the win. But after we lost the first two singles, the way we got that doubles win and then Lakshya brought us back to level, it was a complete team effort,” Chirag told PTI.
India, who had lost to China 1-3 in the last edition in 2018, will now lock horns with Indonesia in the semifinals. Indonesia boast of Asian Games champion and world number seven Jonathan Christie and world number five Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. They also have the world number one pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, apart from the formidable Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan.
“Beating Indonesia will be a difficult task because they have such formidable doubles pairs and even in singles, there players are ranked in top 10, so tough but if we can put the best foot foward like today, we hope to do well,” Chirag signed off.