Four years after India claimed their first Mixed Team badminton gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, against Malaysia, they were handed a taste of the same medicine as Malaysia took their revenge – defeating India in a nail-biting final, 3-1, at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.
While the bulk of the pressure was on World No. 7 men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty to deliver against the World No. 6 duo from Malaysia and Olympic bronze medallists, Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, a lot of doubts arose regarding the selection of World Championships silver medallist Kidambi Srikanth over All England silver medallist Lakshya Sen in the men’s singles tie.
Other than 2-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, none of the Indians could win the match, suffering a very gutting loss to Malaysia, and settling for silver.
What could have easily gone down in India’s favour especially since Malaysia was without their top player, Lee Zii Jia, took a turn for the unexpected when former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth lost to World No. 42 Ng Tze Yong, 21-19, 6-21, 21-16. This was the turning point of the tie as it meant that the young pair of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly would have to shoulder extra responsibility.
Worried looks in the Indian camp were quick to surface as Lakshya Sen, the top-ranked Indian player at World No. 10, sat on the sidelines, biting his lip, unable to do anything as Srikanth’s game stretched into a decider. Lakshya, in the semi-finals, had defeated World Champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore and was in a raring form – but was not selected to play in the finals, in what many suggest now was a strange decision.
Ever since India’s Thomas Cup win, no loss in Indian badminton is taken lightly and therefore at a crucial stage such as this, given the loss, Kidambi’s selection over an in-form Lakshya Sen is quick to earn criticism. As it is, both Kidambi and Lakshya shared a 2-0 lead against Ng Tze Yong and their meetings had taken place this year itself – at India Open and the Thomas Cup quarters, respectively, making the choice very difficult.
Kidambi, obviously, is the more experienced at this and defeated the legendary Lee Chong Wei in the finals last time, and therefore was deemed better suited for the challenge but given Lakshya’s form, perhaps the debutant should have been trusted with the job, for a change.
Here’s what people have to say about Kidambi Srikanth being chosen over Lakshya Sen: