'Need more options in doubles'

India's Ashwini Ponnappa and PV Sindhu en route to their loss in the women's doubles fixture. PTI

Lack of firepower in doubles came to haunt India as they lost to Japan in the women’s team quarterfinals of Asian Games badminton. After the 1-3 defeat, Ashwini Ponnappa, the country’s top doubles exponent, underlined the need to give more focus to this much-neglected area.

India fielded the scratch combination of Ashwini and P V Sindhu against Japan’s Misaki Matsumoto and Ayaka Takahashi, the reigning Olympic champions. They lost in straight games, sealing a 1-3 defeat for India.

“They are the Olympic gold medallists for a reason, they were extremely smart with their attack and that caught us off-guard. They had good variations with their smashes. Also, Sindhu doesn’t play doubles often,” said Ashwini.

“We need to have more options with our doubles teams. We don’t have that big a pool like other countries,” said Ashwini. “We have a long way to go as a nation when it comes to doubles.  All the other countries focus on doubles from a very young age so that their defence and reflex actions are really fast,” she added.

Sikki Reddy and Arathi Sara Sunil, another scratch pairing, had earlier lost the first doubles match as coach Pullela Gopichand broke up the combination of Sikki and Ashwini in search of a winning formula against the formidable Japanese.  

“I don’t think it was a gamble. It was a well thought out decision. Sindhu and I last played together in the 2016 Uber Cup and we had given a fight to the Japanese. We also won a crucial match against Thailand in the last Asian Games where we won the bronze,” said Ashwini.

Ashwini and Sikki have settled into a combination now but the former said she had left the decisions on doubles pairings to the coach. “The last two years, I have left my doubles partnership decision to the coach. So whatever he decides, I go with that, there isn’t any conflict.” 

Hailing from Kodagu, Ashwini said she was concerned with the situation there. “I live in Ammathi and fortunately, there isn’t much damage there but my uncle and aunt are in Madikeri, which has been hit badly,” she said.

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