Even the most hardcore badminton follower would have to rack his or her brain to remember when last an Indian doubles pair was considered medal prospect in a major international meet.
Except for the two bronze medals in the 1982 Asian Games, the performance of the Indian pairs in international tournaments had been so below par that Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopi Chand would regularly chip in during crucial doubles rubbers in the Thomas Cup. The emergence of the mixed doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and V. Diju in 2005 raised hopes of a change in fortune and four years down the line, the national champions are deservedly being seen as medal contenders for this edition of the World Championship.
Ranked eight in the world, the left-right combination has jumped more than 70 places in the world ranking over the past one year. Though upbeat, the Bitburger and Bulgarian Open champions admit they have a tricky second round and a lot would depend on how they tackle the English combination of Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork.
The English pair is ranked 23 places below the Indians but Jwala is wary of the guile of world and Olympic medallist Robertson while Diju makes no bones about the fact that they are more comfortable playing against the Asians.
“The Europeans play at a different pace and are more deceptive than Asian pairs. We also employ the same strategy and so would have lesser advantage against them,” Diju said. However, the duo will be banking on home support and the run at the India Open earlier this year when they reached their first GP gold level final.