India’s commuters put on another splendid display to edge Sri Lanka 5-0 in their second match in Group A of the mixed team competition at the 22nd Commonwealth Games on Saturday. India were by far the best team on display as they completely dominated the proceedings at Arena Birmingham.
A day after beating Pakistan 5-0, India picked up another convincing win to top Group A and advance to the quarter-finals with a tie remaining in the league stage of the competition. India made the strategic decision to separate mixed doubles and men’s doubles as Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were back together for the opening match.
The former world No. 19 looked rusty at the start before going past Sachin Dias and Thilini Hendahewa 21-14 21-9 to put India ahead 1-0. World Championship bronze medalist Lakshya Sen, playing his first match after recovering from a shoulder injury, prevailed 21-18 21-5 over veteran Niluka Karunatne, who competed in the Olympic Games in 2012, 2016 and 2020.
Akarshi Kashyap, who joined the team after dominating the selection trials in April, edged past Vidara Suhasni Vidanage 21-3 21-9 in the women’s singles to give India an unassailable 3-0 lead. While the opener was a walk in the park, Kashyap was briefly troubled by the Sri Lankan in the second game before finding her cue to advance.
One half of the mixed doubles pair, B Sumeeth Reddy then combined with Chirag Shetty to beat Dumindu Abeywickrama and Sachin Dias 21-10 21-13 to make it 4-0. In the final match, Gayatri Gopichand and Tressa Jolly overcame strong resistance from Thilini Hendahewa and Vidara Suhasni Vidanage in the opener to find trumps 21-18 21-6 and participate in the formalities.
Sen found things difficult in the opener as Niluka brought all his experience into play and tried to engage his opponent in rallies. The Indian, however, used his clean half shots, placement, shooting accuracy and best movement on the pitch to emerge victorious.
“I expected it. I’ve trained with him before and played with him in tournaments so I know how he plays,” the 20-year-old from Almora said after the game. “I was rusty in the first game, it was my first game in the hall and I was still getting used to the conditions but I got better in the second game. There is a slight drift which was not there during workouts.
“He’s been playing for a long time, so you should always expect a tough game when you play against that experience.” The men’s singles competition is a competitive field comprising three world championship medalists. While Sen and his compatriot Kidamdi Srikanth are the bronze and silver winners, Singaporean Loh Kean Yew, who had established himself as the champion, is also in the pack.
“It gives you a lot of confidence to come to this tournament but the environment here, the atmosphere in the hall, the fans, it’s a totally different experience and I will learn from this event,” he said. . “It’s a great tournament to play before the world championships (in August 2022).” The Indian team will face Australia in their final league group match later today.
“The team looks really solid. We have very good players at the top and to confirm we also have a very good bench. On the men’s side, winning the Thomas Cup (in May) shows how good the bench is deep.” .