In a welcome development, Indian badminton is reaching new dimensions with each championship. There is no denying that the past three to four years have been the best period for India. As things stand, it could only get better. By any yardstick, one could easily state that India never enjoyed such a golden phase. It was always a case of this Prakash Padukone, the odd Syed Modi or that Pullela Gopichand.
Indians were never ever considered formidable opponents while even lower-ranked players from traditional powerhouses China, Indonesia, South Korea and Denmark were deemed title contenders. Today, as the nation is celebrating the back-to-back SuperSeries success of Kidambi Srikanth, what should not miss the eye is the fact that his win has both ushered in and consolidated a new era for Indian badminton.
This is the only occasion since the emergence of Saina Nehwal that the country is boasting of men champions. Although, talents like Chetan Anand and Parupalli Kashyap did create a flutter on the global map, they lacked consistency at the top. This has always been the bane of Indian sport, particularly in individual sports like badminton and tennis. However, things are looking up at least in these two sports.
In Srikanth and Sai Praneeth the country is suddenly having two potential global champions, who have the wherewithal to conquer the world. The more significant aspect, which is giving rise to a new-found optimism, is that both have been quite consistent at the top. Praneeth has notched up two successive titles as did Srikanth with the Australian Open success.
This should be the icing on the cake for the Guntur native, who has since settled in Hyderabad, because he has ended a jinx. The World No 11 has ended up a loser to the reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long, who, incidentally, is also the current All England champion. That he raised the bar and silenced his critics with clinical precision on a day when he was not fully fit speaks volumes of his resolve to shoulder the country’s expectations to telling effects.
It has been a remarkable outing for Srikanth, who, having made it to the championships rounds at Singapore and Indonesia has become only the fifth player in the sport’s history to figure in three successive Super Series finals. Not ironically, the rise of Praneeth and Srikanth is almost running parallel to the career slides of Saina and PV Sindhu. While the former remains a pale shadow of what she was a couple of years ago, the lanky Sindhu has been rather erratic in her showings.
The best opinion about Srikanth comes from the man who knows him inside out-his guru Gopichand, who has always put Srikanth’s talent on a higher pedestal, comparatively speaking. It is time the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and Gopichand work together and evolve a more scientific methodology that will help produce more Sainas and Padukones. The thrust should be on developing a killer-instinct and the ability to be consistent.