BIRMINGHAM: India’s fancied shuttlecocks didn’t break a sweat en route to completing a 5-0 whitewash against Pakistan in their mixed team campaign opener at the 22nd Commonwealth Games on Friday.
The duo of B Sumeeth Reddy and Machimanda Ponnappa started proceedings with a comfortable 21-9 21-12 victory over Muhammad Irfan Saeed Bhatti and Ghazala Siddique in their mixed doubles Group A clash at the National Exhibition Centre.
After the Pakistani duo appeared to be arguing in the second game, Reddy closed the match with a down-the-line smash, then the world’s number 11 picked up Kidambi Srikanth from where his mixed doubles colleagues started, and was easily the better of Murad Ali 21-7 21-12 in the men’s singles.
The divide in the class was evident as the Pakistanis struggled to meet the high standards of the Indians.
“We came here to definitely win the gold. We will set our goals well and at the same time we don’t really think about the negative sides of it, like who we face in the semi-finals or finals.
“We’re just focused on doing well and winning the gold,” said Srikanth.
Then it was the turn of double Olympic medalist PV Sindhu to take a dominant victory over Mahoor Shahzad in the women’s singles. The Indian shuttle champion won 21-7 21-6.
Unable to handle Sindhu’s powerful smashes, Mahoor mainly relied on the unforced mistakes of her higher-rated opponent to narrow the margin.
At the break of the first game, Sindhu took a massive 11-4 lead before finishing it off without a hitch.
The Pakistani started with a 2-2, but the former world champion’s perfect drop shots were on full display. She soon had an 11-4 lead again before giving India a 3-0 lead.
For the world’s No. 7, Sindhu, who had withdrawn from the Commonwealth Games’ last team event following an ankle injury, it was all about getting the “feel” of the court in pursuit of her first gold medal.
“Since it’s my first game, I started to get used to the field. I tried some new strokes and I also controlled the shuttle my way,” Sindhu said after playing with her inexperienced Pakistani rival.
“Despite taking a huge lead, it was important to understand the court circumstances. In general, I got a sense of what it is like now,” said Sindhu, who lost to Saina Nehwal to settle for silver in the individual event of the latest edition.
“Last time I sprained my ankle and was clearly recovering. This time I’m quite excited as a team. It’s a different environment, as a team that is very strong, hoping for the best.”
Speaking of Indo-Pak sports matches, she said: “Expectations will always be there, but it’s about doing your best on the field. When I go on the field, it’s just the game, me and how I play. That’s everything .”
Fresh off her Singapore Open triumph, Sindhu hopes to win her first CWG gold here.
“Singapore Open win gives me a lot of confidence. Of course that win was much needed, followed by this one. So I hope the rhythm continues and goes higher.”
In the fourth game, the men’s doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty got the better of Murad Ali and Muhammad Irfan Saeed Bhatti.
Unlike in the first three matches, Pakistan tried to do battle with the Indians, but soon the duo Rankireddy and Chirag found their way and became 21-12 21-9 winners.
In the closing women’s doubles match, India’s Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand crushed Mahoor Shahzad and Ghazala Siddique 21-4, 21-5 to complete the defeat in a dominant tone.