Indian badminton has for a
long time revolved around four names – starting with Prakash Padukone and
Pullela Gopichand to Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. These four players – cutting
across the generations – won international accolades for India to
eke out pleasant memories in the minds of Indian fans. They won the
much-vaunted All England Open, finished on the podium at the World
Championships and even made podium finish at the Olympic Games, the ultimate
parameter to measure the success and greatness of a shuttler.
But these are individual
performances in a largely individual sport. Badminton players train on their own, and
they are groomed by their personal coaching staff. Everyone hails their success
and moans about their failures. Over the past decades, India has notched up
several remarkable victories, but those were individual achievements. Success
in a team event, that puts a country’s depth and strength of the talent pool in
check, is rare and hard to come by unless you have proper planning, infrastructure and coaching system in place.
On Sunday at Bangkok’s
Impact Arena, Indian male shuttlers broke the deadlock and emerge triumphant in
the final of the Thomas Cup, the symbol of supremacy in the men’s team
India’s previous best at the
Thomas Cup, also known as the World Men’s Team Championships, was a top-four
finish that came way back in 1979 when badminton had a very little fan
following in India.
The winners of the final
Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, doubles pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy- Chirag
Shetty and Lakshya Sen have cemented their names in the history of Indian
badminton. For long, Indian male shuttlers, have been less heralded. Though
Srikanth holds the record for winning four successive Super Series titles and World Championships silver in tandem with Lakhsya Sen’s bronze, Indian
men’s badminton has never been viewed as equal to Indian women’s badminton. It may be because the Indian men’s badminton lacks an Olympic medal
and World Championships gold.
That second fiddle image
was blown away by the gold in the Thomas Cup, the ultimate team championship
for male shuttlers.
India’s maiden gold cannot
be termed as a flash of the pan performance since it came after Srikanth and HS
Prannoy trumped badminton’s traditional powerhouses Malaysia, Denmark and
Indonesia, all three are former champions, and they have a rich legacy in the sport.
This is the result of years of hard work and planning by passionate coaches, often away from the limelight, in
the academies of Hyderabad and Bengaluru. In the last two decades, India
produced a dozen international standard male shuttlers, and now the discipline
of Indian doubles is slowly making its presence felt in the international
The success of the Thomas
Cup could take Indian men’s badminton to another level and raise the
expectations on young protégées like Lakshya Sen and the doubles duo of Satwik
and Chirag, who until Sunday lost 11 matches against Indonesia’s World No. 1
Mohammad Ahsan-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo but came all guns blazing to snatch an
18-21, 23-21, 21-19 win. This win would definitely boost their confidence,
especially because they were unlucky in the semifinal and final on many
occasions. How valuable this victory was that Chirag expressed with his shirtless
celebration in the court.
“Today, they had Team India
backing their efforts, planning and rooting for them. It makes a difference,
and this was a first where India played as a unit,” stated National Chief
Badminton Coach Pullela Gopichand.
The Indian team at the
Thomas Cup was a blend of youth and experience and they have spent quite a few
years together playing in multiple international events. While Lakshya Sen
trains at Prakash Padukone Academy, Srikanth, Prannoy, Sawtwik and Chirag are
Gopichand’s wards at his Hyderabad academy. They mixed well and rallied behind
each other under pressure and succeeded with deep determination.
Also Read: Lakshya Sen-sational: Young star on the rise
India’s Thomas Cup victory
of course stunned Indonesia, China and Malaysia, who were miffed at the defeat
to Indian shuttlers in the quarterfinal and ripped apart their players with
sharp criticism. Undoubtedly, It is one of the most unexpected and
heart-warming turnouts in badminton’s history. Now the Indian badminton
fraternity would be hoping for a second revolution just like the one that
started with the emergence of Saina Nehwal, India’s first shuttler who took on
the Chinese and breached the wall.