On a day when seniors like Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth faltered losing in singles, Lakshya and doubles teams of MR Arjun/Dhruv Kapila and Chirag Shetty/Srikanth won their matches to help India beat Thailand 3-2 and bag the second medal at the Asian team event. Earlier, Indian men won the bronze in 2016 at Hyderabad.
India will face Indonesia in the semifinals on Saturday.
Incredible comeback! 🇮🇳 shuttlers ensure a place in the semis of @Badminton_Asia with a thrilling3⃣:2⃣victory over… https://t.co/TsrJ4o2xX3
— BAI Media (@BAI_Media) 1581686600000
After the withdrawal of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy due to injury, it was felt that Indian hopes hinge on the three singles. But doubles players along with teen Lakshya came up with impressive performances to shock Thailand.
World No.11 Sai got India off to a losing start. Sai went down to world No.12 Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-14, 14-21, 21-12. This is the first loss for Sai against Kantaphon in five meetings.
World No. 15 Srikanth then suffered a straight game defeat against world No. 35, Kunlavut Vitidsarn 20-22, 14-21. And when Indian fortunes looked bleak, Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun put out Kittinupong Kedren and Tanupat Viriyangkura 21-18, 22-20 to keep India in the contest.
Eighteen-year-old Lakshya then registered an easy victory against Suppanyu Avihingsanon. Though Lakshya worked hard in the first game, he was dominant in the second against the experienced world No.45.
With the team scores tied at 2-2, the new doubles combination of Chirag Shetty and Srikanth recovered from a mid-game collapse to beat Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Phuangphuapet 21-15, 16-21, 21-15. Though Chirag was in full flow throughout the match, it was Srikanth who proved that he is effective in doubles as well.
An excited Chirag told ToI from Manila that it is good to see doubles teams playing a big role in the victory.
“Really happy that we could get those wins for the team. Definitely, it is one of those historic win for Indian badminton. I think this is the first time that we did not rely a lot on singles. The 3-2 win we had today with both doubles teams winning is a rarity”, Chirag said.
World championships bronze medallist, Sai said, “It’s a great victory. Our doubles players played very well and Srikanth and Chirag played really well. Lakshya was impressive. It’s a team effort.”
Chief coach of the Indian badminton team, Pullela Gopichand said that beating Thailand is a credible performance. “It’s a very good win for them. Beating a team like Thailand, that too winning both doubles matches is a credible performance. I hope they continue in the same way and play well in the next match as well,” Gopichand said.
Japanese men will face Malaysia in the other last-four clash. In the women’s category, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea made it to the semifinals.