The Indian Badminton Team Has Scripted History
Enthused with self-aplomp, The Indian badminton team has scripted history by taking on 14-time winners Indonesia in the final of the Thomas Cup in Bangkok on May 15, 2022 and lifted the title defeating the defending champions by 3-0. It is India’s maiden Thomas cup. A series of greetings poured from all over the place. PM Modi congratulated the team on this unparalleled performance. Sports minister along with many personalities showered their greetings on them.
Lakshya Sen opened the campaign for India and won the match against Anthony Sinsuka Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16. With Sen’s win India was leading against Indonesia by 1-0. In the second match, Satwik and Chirag took on Indonesian pair of Ahsan and Sukamuljo. Like the earlier match, the pair lost the first set but came back strongly to defeat the Indonesian pair by 18-21, 23-21, 21-19. In the third game, K. Srikanth thrashed Jonathan Christie in straight sets to bring glory for India. Srikanth fought hard to beat Christie in the third match to win 21-15, 23-21.
India has long celebrated the one great hero in different sports: Ramanathan Krishnan in tennis, Padukone and Pulela Gopichand in badminton, Milkha Singh and PT Usha in athletics and one or two world-class cricketers in every generation in cricket. To win the Thomas Cup, you always needed about ten players, as one or two would always be out of form or injured and India never, ever had ten world-class players. This time it turned out to be surprising for all.
The Thomas Cup is named after George Alan Thomas, an English player from the 1900s who proposed the idea of a championship tournament for badminton, borrowing from the World Cup in football and the Davis Cup in tennis. Since the event began in 1948, India has qualified for only 13 of its 32 editions. In the tournament's seven-decade-long history, the championship title has changed hands only among five nations - China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Denmark. With its win on Sunday, India became only the sixth country ever to break into this elite club. India entered the 16-nation team event earlier this month with its best men. India had previously reached the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup in 1952, 1955 and 1979.
Padukone waited 21 years for his All-England to find an encore, and Gopichand continues to wonder which of the women or men can actually forge ahead and trap down that one. The duo never had the wealth of depth surrounding them to contest for the Thomas Cup at times when Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and China throbbed with talent. But the two guiding lights have patiently waited through the years for that next big headline to light up the shuttle world. As coaches running successful academies and guiding young talent — some of whom successfully won the world team event on Sunday — the two are wisely calling for urgency to step up efforts to capitalise on this triumph.
Indian Badminton as a whole saw steady progress since then and reached its pinnacle in 2017. Well, before this Thomas cup, the biggest moment in India’s badminton would be Sindhu’s Silver at Rio, 2016 and World Championship Gold at 2019 Basel. But, if we look at Indian Badminton as a whole, 2017 was clearly the Golden period. Srikanth won 4 super series in a year equalling the records of the legends Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. Sai won Singapore open in an all Indian final. HS Prannoy had a very good run in a couple of super series tournaments playing several semi-finals and defeating Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. 2017 was the year when India rose as a Badminton powerhouse. India had as many as 5 players in the top 30 of Men’s Singles ranking. It was higher than any other nation.
The badminton fraternity will have to start preparing for those years of silent training that will not be streamed live or trend on social media. Doubles coach Mathias Boe, just hours after the triumph, spoke of how India needs to quickly shed the perennial underdog tag and embrace the favourites one. The Thomas Cup was just the start, a giddy, grinning one, but now tomorrow will come. Other players should learn from this and exhibit their latent talent.