HS Prannoy’s absence hurt India as they went down fighting 2-3 against badminton powerhouse China to sign off with their first-ever silver medal in the men's team championships at the Asian Games 2023 on Sunday. (Medal Tally | Schedule | Full Coverage | Sports News)
After world No. 7 Prannoy was ruled out due to a back injury, Lakshya Sen produced a gutsy show in the first singles and doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty then bossed over their opponents to put India 2-0 ahead.
So, it was once again left to Srikanth to carry the team on his shoulders.
The former world No. 1, who had produced a gritty show against South Korea in the semifinals, couldn't go the distance this time despite a healthy lead and multiple game points as China fought back to make it 1-2.
The defending champions then won the remaining two matches to maintain their hegemony in the Asian Games.
With Prannoy missing the summit clash due to a back injury, Sen was handed the responsibility of leading the Indian charge.
Sen recovered from a mid-game slump to erase a five-point deficit in the decider and put India ahead with a 22-20 14-21 21-18 win over world No. 6 Shi Yuqi in an 83-minute opening slugfest.
World No. 3 men's doubles pair of Satwik and Chirag then went on a smashing spree to outclass world No 2. Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang 21-15 21-18 in 55 minutes to extend the lead to 2-0.
Srikanth, however, squandered an 18-14 lead and multiple game points in the first game to go down 22-24 9-21 against All England champion Li Shifeng in the third singles to expose India's weakest link -- the second doubles and third singles matches.
Scratch pair of Dhruv Kapila and Sai Pratheek Krishna Prasad then lost 6-21 15-21 to world No. 8 Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi, while Prannoy's replacement Mithun Manjunath, ranked 53, went down 12-21 4-21 against world No. 20 Weng Hong Yang in the third singles as India finished second best.
Despite the loss, it is a creditable performance from the Indian team as it sealed India's second 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.
The last time the Indian men won a badminton medal in the team championships was at the 1986 edition in Seoul where Sen's mentors Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar played a crucial role.
India now has 11 badminton medals in the Asian Games, including three individual singles medals, one silver and three bronze in the men's team, two women's team bronze and one medal each in men's doubles and mixed doubles.