With the Olympics qualifications in mind, Badminton Association of India (BAI) announced a strong eight-member squad to participate in the three tournaments taking place in January, next year in Bangkok, Thailand. The team, consisting of Olympic-bound shuttlers PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy, will begin their campaign with Yonex Thailand Open from January 12-17, 2021 followed by Toyota Thailand Open (January 19-24) and the prestigious HSBC BWF World Tour Finals which is rescheduled for January 27-31.
After the coronavirus outbreak disrupted the sporting world resulting in cancellation or postponement of a number of tournaments, this will be the first time that top Indian players, apart from Srikanth, will feature in any international tournament for the first time in the post Covid-19 pandemic time. The former World No. 1, Srikanth had made a comeback when he played the Denmark Open in October.
"We are very happy to see badminton finally getting back on the court. It gives us hope that tournaments can eventually make a steady comeback in near future. Most of our players haven't played tournaments in the last 7-8 months however, they have been training to the best of their abilities at the camp. The purpose of sending a full-strength team in these tournaments so that players can get the much-needed tournament practice ahead of the Olympic qualifiers," BAI General Secretary Ajay Singhania said.
The team will also be accompanied by singles foreign coaches Agus Dwi Santoso and Park Tae Sang and doubles coach Dwi Kristiawan alongside support staff consisting of Kiran Challagundla, Johnson, Evangelina Baddam and M Srikanth.
Sindhu, who is currently in England working on her fitness and skills, will be back in India before the team leaves for Bangkok for the tournaments.
A few days ago, the Sports Ministry sanctioned Sindhu's request to have her physio and fitness trainer accompany her at the tournaments.
"The services of her physio and trainer for these three tournaments has been sanctioned at an approx cost of Rs. 8.25 lakhs," a Sports Authority of India (SAI) statement read.
She last played competitively at the All England Championships in March this year before the Covid-19 pandemic brought sport to a halt.
In September, the reigning world champion had pulled out of Denmark Open. After that, she had agreed to play in the Uber Cup, which was eventually postponed.
This would be Satwik's first match after recovering from coronavirus, which he caught in August.