Commonwealth Games 2022: India’s badminton medal prospects in Birmingham — 4 realistic, all 6 tough ask

India has 25 Commonwealth Games medals in badminton, including seven gold, since the sport made its debut in the event in 1966 in Kingston. With badminton action starting at Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham on Friday, the question is fairly straightforward: Will India, the reigning mixed team champion, sweep all six gold medals on offer? It appears a stretch.

While the Indian team will back itself to win gold in men’s and women’s singles as well as the mixed team events, the going is likely to be a lot tougher in doubles.

The fact is that the talk of Indian shuttlers sweeping medals is itself a testament to the country’s giant leap in the sport. India wasn’t always considered the favourite, with just two gold medals coming in men’s singles in the 1978 and 1982 CWG, and then taking 28 years to win the third and fourth ones (Saina Nehwal in women’s singles and Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa in women’s doubles in New Delhi in 2010).

Mixed team event

Despite the success at home in 2010, India needed another eight years to clinch the mixed team gold. The wait ended in Gold Coast 2018 when Saina Nehwal won the women’s singles gold and powered India to its maiden team gold. PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, and the men’s doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty won silver. The women’s doubles combo of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy bagged a bronze medal as Indian badminton produced its best ever CWG performance.

In Birmingham, the 10-member Indian squad is powered by two-time Olympic medalist Sindhu and will eye a strong showing in all six events.

Times have changed. England, with eight mixed team gold medals, is no longer seen as the favorite. None of its shuttlers is currently in the top 10 of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings.

That leaves Malaysia, the five-time mixed team champion in CWG, as India’s biggest threat. Recently, however, India has upstaged Malaysia in top events. In the 2018 Commonwealth Games, for instance, India beat Malaysia to win the mixed team gold. In May 2022, the Indian men defeated the Malaysians on their way to a historic Thomas Cup gold.

Singles

With a win in her most recent competition – the Singapore Open Super 500, Sindhu, who lost to Saina in Gold Coast, is eyeing her maiden individual CWG gold. As the top seed, Sindhu will be the favorite to clinch the women’s singles title. Her toughest rival, Michelle Li of Canada, has lost to her six times in a row since the 2014 CWG.

In men’s singles, with Malaysian top seed and the highest-ranked Commonwealth shuttler Lee Zii Jia pulling out, a final between two Indians is likely. World Championships silver medalist Kidambi Srikanth and bronze medalist Lakshya Sen will be expected to make the most of the moment. Loh Kean Yew, the reigning world champion, will be a potential threat. The Singapore player, however, is not invincible. Lakshya enjoys a 3-2 head-to-head record against him, with his most recent win coming in the India Open final.