- Rankireddy and Shetty will be key members of India's doubles units at Thomas Cup.
- The 31st edition of the biennial event starts on May 20.
- India have been seeded 5/8th at Thomas Cup.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who form one of the most promising men's doubles pairs in badminton, are confident that the country's men's team can finish on the podium at the 30th edition of Thomas Cup, starting May 20 in Bangkok, Thailand.
India have not even reached the semi-final of the tournament since 1979, let alone winning the tournament. Notably, the men's team had failed to progress to the knockout stages in 2016 as they finished winless in Group B, which had heavyweights Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand.
However, Rankireddy and Shetty, ranked 18th in men's doubles category, are banking on the top-ranked singles stars, to give the team the edge over heavyweights "China, Japan, and Indonesia".
The Asian giants have been drawn alongside nine-time champions China and minnows France and Australia in Group A. The road to quarter-final looks smooth for India as they are favorites to qualify for the quarter-finals, which will be contested by top two teams from each of the four groups.
"I think we have a great chance of winning a medal. Our top three singles players are in top 20 and then we have Sameer Verma and in doubles also apart from us, there is Manu [Attri] and Sumeeth [Reddy], so if we can pull off one doubles, we can win," Shetty told the Press Trust of India, as quoted by The Times of India.
"Srikanth, Prannoy and Sai Praneeth have already proven themselves and we are also confident that we can beat the best players from China, Japan, and Indonesia."
17-year-old Rankireddy added: "I am preparing for 12th exams and I will join camp in 10 days for our preparation for Thomas Cup. We have a great chance to win the team event as we have three strong singles and two doubles."
The Indian team at Thomas Cup will be led by world number five Srikanth. Prannoy, the world number 10 and Praneeth, world number 19, are expected to play key roles in the team's campaign.
Rankireddy and Shetty are confident of a good show in Bangkok, especially after their impressive show in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games.
Never dreamt off winning a Commonwealth Games medal: Shetty
The much-talked-about pair, which reached the final stages of Superseries tournaments last year, won India its first medal in the men's doubles badminton event at the quadrennial multi-sport spectacle in Gold Coast.
They were also part of the Indian team that won an unprecedented mixed team event gold medal.
While maintaining the CWG silver medal was "special", Chirag opines that his partner and himself are working on various aspects of their game, including attack and net play, in order to prepare themselves for stiffer tests in future.
"The feeling of winning a silver has sunk in now. It was our very first CWG and returning with a gold and silver was dream come true. A year back we didn't even think of qualifying. Our only aim was to get higher in ranking," Chirag said.
"We gel very well on court now. I have started playing well at the net and create opening for Satwik and I am sure if we can keep our attack for 90 percent of the time, there are hardly any pair who we cannot beat," the 20-year-old added.