CWG: Shuttlers, paddlers dazzle on last day
Birmingham: Led by the iconic PV Sindhu, Indian shuttlers owned the badminton arena by winning all three titles on offer on the day while paddler Sharath Kamal yet again reminded everyone of his class and awe-inspiring longevity with a coruscating show, as the country wrapped up its CWG campaign with 61 medals to finish a creditable fourth.
It was expected that Sindhu, Lakshya Sen and the formidable pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy would end up on top of the podium but what provided the icing on the cake was the 40-year-old Sharat Kamal's gold medal-winning show against an equally good opponent in Liam Pitchford.
That performance took India's gold medal count to 22, which is four less than the 2018 edition, but this time the sport of shooting was missing from the roster. The shooters had contributed seven golds in Gold Coast's 66-medal haul and considering that India certainly put up a good show.
However, with the 0-7 hammering of the men's hockey team by Australia, when at least a spirited fight was anticipated, the Games ended on a somewhat disappointing note.
The manner in which India caved in took away the joy of the silver medal it managed.
India's final tally read 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze and they stood behind third-placed Canada, which was far ahead with 92 medals (26-32-34). Australia (67-57-54) finished on top ahead of hosts England (57-66-53).
Coming back to TT, Sharath and G Sathian had lost to England's Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall in the men's doubles gold medal match, but on Monday, both the Indians had their revenge.
This was after Sathiyan beat Drinkhall 11-9 11-3 11-5 8-11 9-11 10-12 11-9 in an exciting but nerve-jangling bronze play-off.
Sharath outsmarted the 29-year-old nimble-footed Briton 11-13 11-7 11-2 11-6 11-8 to claim his second CWG singles gold after 16 years. He had won the singles title in the 2006 Melbourne Games.
The superstar paddler will return from Birmingham with a rich haul of four medals, having won the men's team and the mixed team gold, apart from his silver in the men's doubles.
With Monday's sensational gold, Sharath has taken his overall medal tally to 13 at the CWG, since making his Games debut in 2006.
The concluding day of the Games began with superstar Sindhu adding a CWG gold to her already bulging collection with a convincing straight-game win over Canada's Michelle Li.
The world number seven from India outplayed her 13th-ranked opponent 21-15, 21-13 in front of a packed crowd at the NEC arena.
"I had been waiting for this gold for a long time and finally I have got it. I am super happy. Thanks to the crowd, they made me win today," said Sindhu after the final.
Later, 10th-ranked Sen came from behind to end Ng Tze Yong's giant-killing run in the competition. The 20-year-old defeated the world number 42 from Malaysia 19-21, 21-9, 21-16.
Sen was at his attacking best in the decider and led until the end. Yong tried his best to mount a comeback, but Sen was unstoppable. He converted his first match point following a long rally, leading to a frenzied celebration that saw him throw his racket into the stands.
"It was tense at the start; I had to work really hard. Yong also played a great tournament. Congratulations to him as well," said Sen after a hard-fought contest.
India's star doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy won the country's third gold on the badminton court with a straight-game victory over England's Ben Lane and Sean Mendy at the Commonwealth Games. The Indian duo won 21-15, and 21-13.
India, thus, finished a fantastic badminton campaign with three golds, one silver and two bronze.
While the shuttlers and paddlers dazzled, Australia blew away India with their whirlwind speed and relentless attacks in hockey, extending its dominance at the Games.
It was a far cry from what was expected in a gold medal clash as a dominant Australia pumped in five goals in the first half to take the game away from India.