Unfazed by coronavirus fears, a full-strength Indian men’s team has landed here to compete at the Asia Team Championships from Tuesday, eyeing a medal-winning performance which will give players crucial ranking points in the Olympic year.
A 44-year-old Chinese tourist from Wuhan had died on February 1 in Philippines, which has reported three virus cases so far. The two others were discharged from hospital after their tests were reported to be negative.
Former world number one Kidambi Srikanth and 2019 world championship bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth will lead the Indian team which also has HS Prannoy, Subhankar Dey and young Lakshya Sen.
The Indian men’s team, which won the bronze medal in the 2016 Championship, was initially clubbed with two-time defending champion Indonesia and host Philippines in Group A but with China and Hong Kong not playing due to a travel ban on them by the Philippines, the draw was re-worked on Monday.
India is now placed in Group B alongside Malaysia and Kazakhstan. The top two teams in each of the four groups will make it to the quarterfinals.
India will begin its campaign against Kazakhstan on Tuesday before taking on Malaysia on Thursday. This is only the third edition of the Asia Team championship, which serves as Asia qualifiers for the Thomas and Uber Cups.
Praneeth and Co. are expected to have an easy outing against Kazakhstan, which is not a prominent badminton nation, but the clash against Malaysia will be an interesting one. Malaysia boasts of a young team, comprising world no 14 Lee Zii Jia, 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Cheam June Wei and Leong Jun Hao, a former three-time silver medallist at World Junior Championships.