Aparna Popat on India's chances at All England Open: Saina and Sindhu can win the tournament 

The former shuttler believes that the Indian contingent has got a good chance to return with the coveted trophy

By Soham Mukherjee

India's premier badminton players will be in action at the All England Open Badminton Championships at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham from March 17-21.

Star Indian shuttlers PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are scheduled to go up against Malaysia’s Soniia Cheah, and Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark respectively in the opening round.

To advance far in the prestigious event will not be an easy feat given the presence of the Japanese shuttlers like Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara.

However, as this is not an Olympic qualifying tournament and Chinese, South Korea and the Chinese Taipei players have withdrawn from the Super 1000 event, which can only enhance Indian chances of making it deep into the tournament.

"The chances are certainly good for Indian shuttlers this season. Shuttlers from China, Korea, Taipei have not participated. Also since this is not an Olympic qualification event, it remains to be seen how the Japanese perform in this competition. It remains to be seen whether they play to win or just come out to stretch their legs. Nevertheless, in such a prestigious tournament, there will be stiff competition. Saina has reached the finals before and Sindhu has reached the semi-finals in the past. They can beat any player on any given day," opined former Commonwealth Games gold medallist badminton player Aparna Popat in a chat with Olympic Channel.

"Our shuttlers will have maximum intensity. They will try to go in with their best form and since they have already played tournaments previously this year, they will not be using this platform to test themselves. They can actually look to win the tournament. That's how they will approach the tournament," she added.

India's Saina Nehwal.

In the men's section, Parupalli Kashyap will be up against Japanese ace Kento Momota in the first round. Whereas, HS Prannoy will face Daren Liew - an opponent he lost to at the Thailand Open. While Srikanth Kidambi will face Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia.

In the recent past, they did not have much luck in All England but Popat believes that the tables could turn in this edition.

"The Indian male players could have done better but I think they will excel in this edition. It is just another tournament in the end and it is about handling pressure. I don't think there is anything specific about All England. It all depends on their form. Srikanth has been playing very well in the recent past, Kashyap has the experience, Prannoy has taken out some seeds in tournaments, while Sai is a world champion medallist. Any of these can fire at any point in time," she stated.