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Badminton at the 2022 Commonwealth Games: Who will reign supreme?

At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, more countries will be competing for the podium than ever before. India will have to be at their best to defend their Team crown.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games are a week away. Much has changed in badminton and the world beyond since the Games were last held in 2018.

Back then, India won their first ever Team title even as Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu battled it out in an all-Indian Women’s Singles final. Lee Chong Wei added another gold to his endless collection while Vivian Hoo and Chow Mei Kuan successfully defended the Women’s Doubles title for Malaysia. England won the other two golds on offer with the Mixed Doubles pairing of Chris and Gabby Adcock winning an all-English final and the duo of Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge getting the Men’s Doubles crown after decades of Malaysian dominance.

Historically England and Malaysia have been the most successful countries since badminton was introduced at the Games in 1966. India’s influence rose from the 2010 edition; 5 of the country’s 7 golds have come from the last three CWGs.

So what does Birmingham 2022 promise? Malaysia have the best doubles teams of the Games. India are led by Thomas Cup winners and PV Sindhu. Countries such as Singapore and Canada have made giant strides in global badminton. On paper, England look weaker than in 2018 but have the home advantage. All six competitions will be closer now than ever before.

Men’s Singles

Loh Kean Yew

Lee Zii Jia’s decision to skip the Games in order to prepare for the World Championships opens the door for India’s Thomas Cup heroes Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen.

Standing in their way is reigning World Champion and the MS competition’s highest ranked player Loh Kean Yew. The 25-year old is hoping to become only the second Singaporean to win a CWG badminton gold.

The Head-to-Head records of the three players suggest a close contest. Kean Yew has a 1-1 H2H against Srikanth with their last meeting being at the 2021 World Championship finals. His H2H against Lakshya reads 2-3 with the Indian having won their previous match-up at the India Open in January. Lakshya and Srikanth have faced each other only once internationally; Srikanth defeated the younger Lakshya in the 2021 World Championship semifinals.

Recent form indicates Kean Yew to be the favourite. Srikanth has gone back to indifferent form after winning the Thomas Cup; he most recently crashed out in the first round of the Singapore Open against lower-ranked compatriot Mithun Manjunath. Lakshya has been on a month-long break since competing at the Indonesia Masters. During the same period, Kean Yew has been a regular presence in tournament quarter and semi-finals.

HS Prannoy, who got 4th place at Gold Coast 2018 and has been the most consistent Indian MS off late, was not selected for the 2022 Games.

Brian Yang will be the dark horse in the competition. The young Canadian took Srikanth to three games in the Thomas Cup and has beaten both Lakshya and Kean Yew in recent times.

Malaysian youngster Ng Tze Yong and England shuttler Toby Penty are the other podium candidates.

Women’s Singles

PV Sindhu

All eyes will be on PV Sindhu. The 27-year old is on a high after winning the Singapore Open, her third title of the year. Theoretically, Birmingham 2022 is the former World Champion’s best chance at a maiden Commonwealth Games title.

Sindhu enjoys a 10-1 H2H record against the next highest ranked player, Canada’s Michelle Li; and a 2-0 record against Malaysia’s Goh Jin Wei. Defending champion Saina Nehwal not competing this time will further boost Sindhu’s chances.

Sindhu’s only loss against Li however came at the 2014 Commonwealth Games semi-finals where Li went on to win the title. Sindhu has also not faced Jin Wei since 2019; the 2022 Games will provide a platform for the young Malaysian to come back after battling health issues for the better part of two years.

Also in the fray are the tenacious Scot Kirsty Gilmour and Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min. Gilmour would be looking to improve upon a silver from 2014 and a bronze from 2018 in the near-home conditions of Birmingham. Jia Min meanwhile reached the quarters of the India Open and Korea Masters this year.

Men’s Doubles

Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik

On paper, the Men’s Doubles competition should be a toss-up between Tokyo 2020 bronze medalists Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik and the Thomas Cup winning Indian duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.

The Malaysians defeated the Indian pair at the Badminton Asia Championships earlier this year, this being the only match-up between the two teams.

Chia and Soh have been among the most consistent teams this year. Satwik-Chirag on the other hand have only competed in one tournament since the Thomas Cup and have specifically mentioned targeting the Commonwealth Games as the beginning of the next phase of their journey.

In 2018, Satwik-Chirag had created history by becoming the first Indian Men’s Doubles team to reach the CWG finals (where they eventually lost to England’s Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge). Chia-Soh in contrast will aim to regain Malaysian dominance in MD.

Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, the highest ranked English team in Chris Langridge’s absence, have not been at their best in 2022. They have a 0-4 overall H2H against Chia-Soh and 1-1 against Satwik-Chirag; the Indians won their last meeting in the Tokyo Olympics group stage.

Singapore’s Terry HeeLoh Kean Hean and the Scottish team of Adam Hall and Alexander Dunn are the other notable teams in the running.

Women’s Doubles

Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan

Malaysia’s Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan are the favorites now that Lauren Smith has chosen to solely concentrate on Mixed Doubles. Smith’s former team-mate Chloe Birch will be partnering Jessica Pugh for England.

Tan and Muralitharan have reached three Super 500 semifinals this year after beating higher ranked opponents. The Malaysians will aim to continue the legacy of Vivian Hoo who won two WD golds in a row from 2014 to 2018.

Birch and Pugh’s best result this year has been reaching the semis of the Orleans Masters.

Canada’s top WD team of Kristen TsaiRachel Honderich will also be in podium contention. The duo gave a scare to the higher ranked Japanese team of Matsumoto-Nagahara in the Tokyo Olympics group stage and gave a good account of themselves in the 2022 Uber Cup.

It will be a good outcome for Indian badminton if the young team of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly can build on their All England 2022 performance. They won the Odisha Open this year and were the runners-up at the Syed Modi Super 300 before reaching the AE semifinals. They have a 0-1 H2H against Tan-Muralitharan and have not faced the English and Canadian pairings before.

Scotland’s Julie Macpherson and Ciara Torrance are also in the mix.

Mixed Doubles

Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis

England’s best chance at a CWG badminton gold will be through the Mixed Doubles team of Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis. England have an enviable XD record at the Games, having won 9 out of 12 golds since 1966.

Smith and Ellis will have to contend with two top Malaysian teams. Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing are the highest ranking pair in the competition; they won the Korea Open and reached the semi-finals of the India Open this year.

Rio 2016 silver medalist Chan Peng Soon has said he will be targeting an elusive gold at the 2022 CWGs as a swansong to an illustrious career. He however will be teamed up with Cheah Yee See and not his regular partner Goh Liu Ying. Peng Soon and Yee See notably defeated Ellis and Smith in the Indonesia Open in June.

Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han have been in good form this year, having already won the India Open and Orleans Masters.

Ashwini Ponappa, now about to compete in her fourth CWGs, has been a doubles legend for India. But she and partner B. Sumeeth Reddy (on an international comeback) will have to play their best badminton to upset the top teams.

Mixed Team: Can India defend their title?

India won the 2018 Commonwealth Games Team competition

While India are favourites to win Pool A against Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, they will likely face tough opponents in England and Singapore in the quarters and semis.

Singapore, led by Loh Kean Yew, have massively progressed since 2018 while hosts England will be a force in doubles. Barring Sindhu, much of the Indian squad has been dealing with injuries over the past few months.

Key players such as Lakshya and Satwik-Chirag have missed a number of tournaments since the Thomas and Uber Cup; Gayatri did not even participate in that competition. Srikanth’s recent form has not exactly been convincing. Having these players in peak fitness during the Games is a sine qua non for a successful title defence.

Malaysia on the other hand will likely face Scotland and Canada in the knockout rounds. The latter are a much-improved team that can challenge for the podium.

Upsets are common in multi-sport tournaments and even the biggest names can suffer defeats; contrast the fates of Kento Momota and Kevin Cordon at the Tokyo Olympics.

Over the last decade, badminton at the Commonwealth Games has shifted from from a duopoly of England and Malaysia towards enhanced competition. The 2022 edition of the Games will in all probability be another step in that evolution.