Badminton - Thomas Cup
Indian men's badminton are in line for a top-two finish in Thomas Cup, the blue riband of badminton's team event. Image Credit: Twitter

Kolkata: It turned out to be a moment of reckoning for Indian men’s badminton team at the Impact Arena in Thailand over the week as they stunned superpowers Denmark 3-2 in the semi-finals late on Friday evening. Kidambi Srikkanth & Co had earlier punched above their weight to stun five-time champions Malaysia in the quarter finals on Thursday to already ensure themselves of a medal.

The India-Denmark battle on Friday saw India rallying back repeatedly after the first match saw Viktor Axelsen defeated Lakshya Sen in straight games 21-13, 21-13 to give the Europeans a strong start. Down 0-1, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy defeated Kim Astrup and Mathias Christiansen in a thriller as India levelled the semi-final tie.

Going into the second singles to keep India afloat, Srikanth - a World Championship silver medallist and former world No.1 - summoned all his experience to subdue Anders Antonsen 21-18, 12-21, 21-16 to help India forge ahead 2-1. Denmark’s Anders Skaruup Rasmussen and Frederik Sogaard then won the fourth match to level things 2-2 as they prevailed 21-14, 21-13 against the Indian pair of Vishnuvardhan Panjala and Krishna Garaga.

H.S. Prannoy then did the star turn two days in a row when he held his nerves to beat Rasmus Gemke 13-21, 21-9, 21-12 in a thrilling comeback to steer India in their first final of the definitive team event in the sport. India are now assured of at least a silver in the tournament.

Indian men already created history as they made their first semi-final in 43 years when Prannnoy won the deciding match, beating Leong Jun Hao in straight games as the Indian men’s team ran onto the court celebrating the historic feat.

India grabbed their winning point through third singles player Prannoy, who overran Leong Jun Hao 21-13, 21-8 to send the young Malaysian team packing.

World No. 6 Lee Zii Jia had given Malaysia their first point when he beat Indian singles ace Lakshya Sen, ranked three notches below him, 23-21, 21-9.

Women's challenge ends in quarters

India managed to pull level at 1-1 in the first doubles when Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty produced a splendid performance to end Malaysian pair Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani’s impressive run here. The Indians, ranked world No. 8, needed just 41 minutes to get past the world No. 13 Malaysian pair 21-19, 21-15 for their sixth win over the Malaysians in seven meetings.

Former world No. 1 Srikanth Kidambi put India ahead when he beat Malaysia’s rising star Ng Tze Yong 21-11, 21-17 in the second singles, but Malaysia levelled the match at 2-2 when team captain Aaron Chia and Teo Ee Yi outlasted Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala 21-19, 21-17 in the second doubles.

Meanwhile, India’s Uber Cup campaign came to a tame end as the unseeded team led by Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu lost to hosts Thailand 0-3 in the quarter-finals. Indian women won bronze medals in 2014 and 2016 but they have not managed to reach the semi-final stages of the team event over the last two editions.