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 golds, since the sport made its debut in the event in 1966 in Kingston. With badmintion 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 the men’s and women’s singles as well as the mixed team event, the going will likely be a lot tougher in the doubles events.

The fact is that the talk of India sweeping badminton is itself a testament to the country’s improvement 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 gold 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 pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy bagged a bronze medal to give Indian badminton its best CWG performance. In Birmingham, the 10-member Indian squad is powered by two-time Olympic medallist PV 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 favourite. None of its shuttlers is currently in the top 10 of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings.

That leaves Malaysia, five times the mixed team champion in CWG, as the threat for India. 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 clinching 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 favourite to clinch the women’s singles title, with her toughest rival, Michelle Li of Canada, having lost to her six times in a row since the 2014 CWG.

In men’s singles, with Malaysian top seed and highest ranked Commonwealth shuttler Lee Zii Jia pulling out, a final between two Indians becomes a prospect. World Championships silver medallist Kidambi Srikanth and bronze medallist Lakshya Sen will be expected to make the moment count. 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.