World Badminton Championships 2017: Tanvi Lad must produce strong show to hog much-needed spotlight
Will World No 93 Tanvi Lad finally step up to the plate and be counted as the next flag-bearer of Indian women's badminton
When the Indian squad for the 2017 World Badminton Championships was announced, sports enthusiasts from the country believed that this was our best bet for a medal prospect.
While the entire men's singles division has in the recent past proved their mettle by winning events across the world, the case is different in the women's singles.
PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have been the lynchpins of women's singles for the better part of the last five years and it is expected to be no different this around in the event starting on 21 August in Glasgow.
Sometimes, the cloak of anonymity and no expectations can work in favour of a player who has spent quite a long time on the thresholds of a breakthrough to shine bright enough for the spotlight to realise her presence.
The 24-year-old Tanvi Lad is one such World Championships participant who returns to the international stage after a long injury lay-off that saw her out of action since the India Open in March.
The Mumbai-born shuttler enters the tournament with inadequate match practice but her progress has a lot to do with the draw.
She will face England's Chloe Birch in the first match, against whom Tanvi enjoys a head-to-head advantage and would favour repeating the feat in the first round of the Championships.
However, if Tanvi wins in the first round, she runs into the No 2 seed Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea.
Though 2017 hasn't quite been favourable to the Mumbai-born player, she had a mixed 2016, a year that saw her reach a couple of quarterfinals in International events that helped a lot in gaining the points required to make the World Championships cut and also garner a much-needed exposure at the highest level.
Though she was World No 61 when she made it through to the Championships, she has since had a drastic drop and is now World No 93.
Tanvi's first big break in the international scene came when she won the Bahrain International Challenge in 2013.
She showed glimpses of her talent in the matches she played in other Superseries and Grand Prix events against higher-ranked players like Carolina Marin and Saina. However, glimpses weren't enough for sustained focus on the shuttler who turns up for Petroleum Sports Promotion Board(PSPB) in National competitions.
For the two-time runner-up in the Senior National Championships, funding and sponsorship is a major factor that reins in her growth in the sport of badminton.
With India's second-tier players not getting the required financial help and hence, a lack of international match practice, puts these players at a disadvantage even against lower-ranked foreign players who work with a proper, streamlined system.
A member of the Delhi Acers in the Premier Badminton League, although Tanvi showed spunk in the limited chances she received, many readers of the game felt the women's singles division in India continues to rely on the big-two and felt the time to pass the baton hasn't yet come.
For players like Tanvi, who have proved their mettle at the national level, a want of proper funding through the Federation or corporate sponsors to facilitate their participation in more international tournaments and gain the necessary exposure is the main concern.
A decent showing at the World Badminton Championships might just be the push she has been waiting for a really long time.
Unburdened by expectations and if unfazed by the seeding of an opponent, Tanvi Lad, one of the most hard-working and disciplined players in the Indian circuit, can finally force the spotlight to focus on her.
Indian women's singles division might not have reached the time to pass the baton yet, but when the time comes, Tanvi has the experience and talent to be one of the front-runners to usher Indian badminton into its future.
The world number seven Indian will next play Hong Kong's world number 34 Cheung Ngan Yi in the group stage.
Sindhu is one of the favourites for the gold, especially in the absence of defending champion Carolina Marin, who missed the Games due to an injury.
Firstpost.com takes a quick look at badminton star PV Sindhu's performances over the past two years, and charts her journey towards securing Olympic qualification.