India shuttler Kidambi Srikanth in action© AFP
Kidambi Srikanth rallied his way to a thrilling win in a tense decider as India kept alive their hopes of winning a first-ever gold medal at the Asian Games, reaching the men’s team championships final with a 3-2 win over South Korea in Hangzhou on Saturday. This is India’s maiden entry into the final of the team event at the continental showpiece. World No. 7 HS Prannoy showed nerves of steel to bounce back from an opening game reversal to outwit Jeon Hyeok Jin 18-21 21-16 21-19 and put India 1-0 ahead but Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost the first doubles 13-21 24-26 to reigning world champions Seo Seung-Jae and Kang Min-hyuk as Korea made it 1-1.
Lakshya Sen then put up a dominating show in the second singles to bring India back in business with a clinical 21-7 21-9 win over Lee Yungyu but MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila lost 16-21 11-21 to Kim Wonho and NA Sungseung in the second doubles as the two teams found themselves on level terms once again.
Srikanth, a 2021 World Championships silver medallist, then fought his way under pressure to struggle past world no. 163 Cho Geonyeop 12-21 21-16 21-14 and seal India’s place in the summit clash at the BJ Gymnasium.
India will look to live up to their Thomas Cup champions tag when they face multiple-time gold medallist China in the final on Sunday.
Saturday’s win assured India of at least a silver medal in badminton at the continental championships with two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu winning the first in women’s singles in the 2018 edition at Jakarta.
The last time the Indian men won a badminton medal in team championships was at the 1986 edition at Seoul where Sen’s mentor Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar played a crucial role.
In total, India have so far bagged 10 badminton medals in Asian Games history, including three individual singles medals, three men’s team bronze, two women’s team bronze and one medal each in men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
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