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Kashyap leads team to spot in Thomas Cup finals

Seamlessly, P Kashyap stepped into Chetan Anand's first singles slot during the Asia Zone qualifiers of the Thomas Cup on Thursday.

And in this smooth transition and inter-changeability among the singles pool lies the story of India's qualification for the finals of the Thomas Cup badminton championship to be held in Malaysia in May. Kashyap, coming off that very robust reserve bench, led India's charge as they beat Vietnam with a 3-0 margin on Thursday and made the semi-finals of the Asia Zone qualifiers, good enough for a finals spot. On Friday, they will attempt to sneak in a few wins against Korea in the semi-final.

With their entry into the May finals, this team becomes only the fourth from India to figure in the world's elite of Thomas Cup, and they can boast of a well-rounded squad. It even reflects in the rankings, with six Indians in the singles top 60.

Playing the first singles on Thursday, Kashyap saw luck grinning on him as Vietnam's top player, world No 9 Nguyen Tien Minh, had to rush home to fix a visa issue. Facing Nguyen Hoang Nam instead, Kashyap took three-quarters of an hour to win 22-20 10-21 18-21 and take India 1-0 up in the quarters. Aravind Bhat then rallied to win 16-21 21-7 21-10 against Pham Cao Hieu, while Anup Sridhar swatted aside Huynh Vinh 21-13 21-6 to clinch the tie and render the doubles matches redundant.

"It feels good to help the team qualify for the finals since it was one of my dreams," said the 22-year-old Kashyap. "The team is really strong now and as we're seeded third, we are expected to qualify," he added.

Playing his first big match of a Thomas Cup qualifier and chosen ahead of Anand since he had beaten the top Vietnamese at an Asian Championship previously, the Hyderabad player had to battle a few nerves early. "I was chosen to play ahead of the seniors so I had to justify that faith and really wanted to win this one," Kashyap said.

On Friday against Korea, Kashyap is expected to again play the first singles, facing world No 13 Sung Hwan Park. The team will split their doubles pair, with experienced Sanave Thomas partnering junior Akshay Dewalkar and Rupesh Kumar combining with V Diju in an attempt to take a shot at the second doubles against the imposing Korean doubles shuttlers.

All eyes, however, will be on the Indian women, as Saina Nehwal & Co. try to upstage Chinese Taipei on Friday in their final group game and join the men for the finals of the Uber Cup in May after they thrashed Philippines 5-0 in a series of straight sets wins.

Source from Indian

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