Teen sensation Unnati Hooda, 14, was on Thursday named in the Indian badminton team for the upcoming Asian Games as the national federation announced the squads for the major events this year, including the Commonwealth Games, Thomas and Uber Cup.
The teams were named by Badminton Association of India (BAI) following six days of selection trials at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi. Hooda is the youngest Indian badminton player to be part of the Asian Games squad.
Double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu will spearhead the women's challenge in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games while London Olympics bronze winner Saina Nehwal did not expectedly feature in the squads.
World Championships medallists Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth will lead India's medal quest among men in the Birmingham CWG (July 28 to August 8) and Asian Games (September 10-25 ) in Hangzhou, China. Apart from the squads for the three major tournaments which are to be held this year, the BAI also finalised names of 40 players (20 men and 20 women) for the senior national coaching camp and core group for the 2024 Olympic Games, based on players' positions in trials.
For the Commonwealth Games, the men's team consists of Sen, Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty and B Sumeeth Reddy while Sindhu will lead the women's squad which has Aakarshi Kashyap, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri P and Ashwini Ponappa. Sumeet Reddy and Ponappa made the cut in the men's and women's squads respectively for the Commonwealth Games after their top-place finish in the mixed doubles category.
Hooda, the teenage sensation from Rohtak, caught the selectors' eyes as she secured a place for the Asian Games as well as Uber Cup by finishing third in the women's singles after Kashyap and Ashmita Chaliha, who claimed first and second positions respectively.
A 10-member women's team for the Asian Games and Uber Cup will comprise Sindhu, Kashyap, Chaliha, Hooda alongside Top-3 doubles pairs from the trials -- Treesa Jolly-Gayatri P, N Sikki Reddy- Ashwini Ponappa and Tanisha Crasto-Shruti Mishra. Sindhu, Sen, Srikanth and men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj and Shetty were awarded direct entry into the squads for their world rankings inside Top-15.
In-form shuttler HS Prannoy has also been included as part of automatic selection for his consistent impressive recent form at the international circuit. Priyanshu Rajawat, who claimed the top spot in the men's singles category, also made his way into the 10-man contingent for the Asian Games and Thomas Cup alongside Sen, Srikanth and Prannoy.
The team also has Satwiksairaj and Shetty and the Top-2 doubles pairs from the trials -- Dhruv Kapila-MR Arjun and Vishnu Vardhan Goud-Krishna Prasad Gariga. World No. 23 Saina Nehwal had chosen to stay away from the trials after questioning the decision of the national selectors to keep her out but retain men's World No. 23 H S Prannoy in the national team.
"We are delighted with the energy of the selection trials. All the players gave everything on the court to earn themselves a chance to represent the country. It's great to see high-quality competition for the positions. "I congratulate all the players and wish them good luck for their preparations for mega events," said Sanjay Mishra, general secretary of BAI. "This new format for the trials was developed to provide a platform where the senior as well as young players can have opportunities and now you can now see the squads are a great mix of youth and experience and am sure each of them will make the most of this opportunity and make India proud," Mishra added.
The trials saw participation of 120 players in the five categories as the league-cum-round robin format tested the ability of the players in each stage from April 15-20. The 32nd edition of Thomas Cup and 29th Uber Cup are scheduled in Bangkok from May 8-15.
Commonwealth Games: Men: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty and B Sumeeth Reddy.
Women: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri P, Ashwini Ponappa.
Asian Games, Thomas & Uber Cup:
Men: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Priyanshu Rajawat, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Dhruv Kapila, MR Arjun, Vishnu Vardhan Goud, Krishna Prasad Gariga.
Women: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha, Unnati Hooda, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri P, N Sikki Reddy, Ashwini Ponappa, Tanisha Crasto and Shruti Mishra.