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Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth spice up National Championships

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GUWAHATI: Top stars of Indian badminton will take a break from their international assignments and compete in the 83rd Senior National Championships, which begin on Sunday.

The week-long tournament will be a feast for local fans as Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and several other top shuttlers are expected to make it a red-hot affair at the Nehru Stadium.

The participation of these stars will not only improve the standard of play, but also add much-needed spice to country’s premier domestic tournament.

In fact, it started in November 2017 when Nagpur successfully hosted the previous edition, where the big guns of Indian badminton participated for the first time after many years.

The decision of Badminton Association of India (BAI) to make participation of top players compulsory has set a new trend in the annals of senior Nationals.

The competition will begin with the Inter-Zonal mixed team championship on Sunday. The battle for supremacy in individual events begins on Tuesday.

In the absence of a formidable PSPB team, the field is wide open. The defending champions and domestic giants will miss out this year as they did not participate in the Central zone Inter-state tourney last month as most of the PSPB players were busy with international tournaments.

Central Zone champions Railways along with Airport Authority of India, Maharashtra and Air India are now front-runners to make the most of PSPB’s absence.

Last time semifinalists Maharashtra, who had lost to PSPB 1-3, are hoping for an improved performance.

“We definitely have a better team this year and if all goes well we should reach the final. Railways and AAI are also very strong teams. It all depends on draw and performance of women players in the team,” Maharashtra coach Amrish Shinde told TOI on Saturday.

Shinde, one of the coaches of the Indian team, added that every team needs to have proper balance in the mixed team event as it contains three doubles contests in best-of-five-match format.

BAI secretary (events) and organising secretary Omar Rashid confirmed that barring HS Prannoy, everyone will be in action.

“Prannoy has withdrawn due to health reasons. He has respiratory problems and is right now under treatment. That’s why he has also withdrawn from the All England Championship next month,” said Rashid.

He said Guwahati will host the senior Nationals after a decade. “We hosted this meet in 2010. BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma is personally looking after all the arrangements,” said Rashid.

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