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New badminton hope

New badminton hope
Highlights

He is the country’s best bet in badminton and the entire firmament is celebrating the probable dawn of new era. After all, for an Indian whose rise to the top has been quite praiseworthy, particularly for a male shuttler, B Sai Praneeth arrives on the big league as a whiff of fresh air. 

He is the country’s best bet in badminton and the entire firmament is celebrating the probable dawn of new era. After all, for an Indian whose rise to the top has been quite praiseworthy, particularly for a male shuttler, B Sai Praneeth arrives on the big league as a whiff of fresh air.

In a way, this is perhaps the most productive phase for Indian male shuttlers because at no point did the country boast of several potential international champions in one go. It was always a Prakash Padukone, a Syed Modi or a lone Pullela Gopichand, who kept the country’s flag flying on the global circuit.

A hallmark of Praneeth’s career graph that is indicative of prowess has been that, unlike most of his peers and predecessors of recent past, the 24-year-old Hyderabadi has been consistent in his showing right from the time he emerged as the Under-10 national champion.

A good augury about Praneeth is that he stands out with his silken touch, a la Chetan Anand, which, nonetheless, comes laced with devastating strokes – a potent combination that can unnerve any formidable opponent across the net.

So phenomenal have been his credentials that he had the Under-13, 16, 19 titles, a bronze in the world juniors, and a senior national title in his kitty even before he turned 21. His graduation to the international league saw him account for Srikanth at Singapore, which was for the first time that two Indians were in the summit clash of a major tournament.

By winning his maiden Grand Prix Gold title with 2017 Thailand Open, the Pullela Gopichand protégé has proved that he is too good for a World No 24. Not only is the Bangkok showing a massive addition to his resume, but it also proves that the Singapore Open of the previous fortnight was no flash of isolated brilliance.

It is this sort of consistency that is missing from talents like Parupalli Kashyap and Kidambi Srikanth, both of whom have fallen to the wiles and guiles of Praneeth, who has now made it a habit of winning over higher ranked players.

Quite possibly, the latest triumph will hold him, and Indian badminton thereof, in good stead as he prepares to go for greater glory in the next events that are lined up – Indonesian Open and Australian Open.

However, a major setback to Indian calculations has been the semifinal loss of Saina. Even as P V Sindhu has been conquering the Chinese women at regular intervals, Saina has fallen to the Thai bug.

Her loss to O Busanan was unthinkable even a couple of months before. That she lost yet again somehow sends across the message that she is yet to strike the form of yore, despite the rehabilitation that she has been through.

One should feel sorry for the Haryanvi girl, who was feared for her ability to rise Phoenix-like with her speed, stamina and steely resolve. Now she appears a pale shadow of herself. Her loss of form comes parallel to the giant strides being made by Sindhu.

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