India’s Number one singles player and world number nine Lakshya Sen was down by food poisoning at the start of the tournament.
By Maj Gen PK Mallick,(Retd)
Whenever the history of Indian sports is written, today’s victory in the world team championship in badminton, the Thomas Cup, will be written in golden letters. History has been made. India has never been in the medal round of the Thomas Cup. Now India is the sixth country in the 75 years history of the Thomas Cup to win it.
India entered the tournament as the fifth seed. Got beaten by Taiwan in the league stage. But indications were there for India’s strong performance.
India’s Number one singles player and world number nine Lakshya Sen was down by food poisoning at the start of the tournament. As per the format, each team fields their number one in the first singles. Lakshya Sen lost his three singles matches against much higher opponents like world number one from Denmark. But cometh the hour cometh the man in the finals. In the first singles, Lakshya Sen was up against world No. 4 Anthony Ginting. He lost the first game at eight. Won the second at 17. In the third, Sen was down and out and was trailing at 11-7. But the young star kept his nerve, rallied splendidly and beat Anthony Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16 and gave India the lead in the final. Lakshay has not won anything till now. He wins the first match in the finals in the battle of number one. What a time to win.
India’s number one doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty somehow does not get the dues. They have won the all-important doubles match in the quarterfinals and semifinal. Today in the finals they were up against the much-fancied pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. They are world number one and two in doubles with other partners. The Indians lost the first game at 18. In the second game, the Indian pair was down and out. Was down match point at 20-17 and 21-20. Miraculously the Indians saved four match points and won the game at 23-21. In a tension-filled third game, India won the match at 19.
India leads 2-0
Then came the icing on the cake. India’s Kidambi Srikanth has been critical to India’s success at the Thomas Cup this year. The former world number one has won all five matches he’s played. After coming back from injury he has shown the grit that’s not often been on display over the last few seasons. He had to dig deep to pull out a crucial 21-18, 12-21, 21-15 win over Anders Antonsen in the semifinal against Denmark. He was to play against the reigning Asian Games gold medallist and hero of Indonesia’s last Thomas Cup win, Jonatan Christie. Christie has beaten Srikanth twice this season already. But going by the way Srikant Kidambi has been playing in this tournament there was a quiet air of confidence in the Indian camp.
It was a cat and mouse game in the first game. The score was level at 15 all. Then Kidambi reeled off five consecutive points to win at 15. India is one game away from the Thomas Cup.
In the second game Srikant was leading 13-11. All of a sudden Christie won eight of the next nine points. Kidambi was trailing at 16-18. Cool as a cucumber Srikant took control, saved a game point and won the game, match and the Thomas Cup 21-15, 23-21; India has beaten 14-time champion Indonesia 3-0 in the final. Would you have believed this scoreline before the start of the tournament?
Think about the exploits of H S Prannoy. In the quarterfinals and semifinals, the score was level at two-all. Both times he won to get India to the next round. In the semis against Denmark, he injured his ankle. Prannoy was not required in the finals!
Look at the scoreline against Denmark in the semifinals.
First Doubles: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty win 21-18, 21-23, 22-20 against Kim Astrup/Mathias Christiansen’
Second Singles: Kidambi Srikanth 21-18, 12-21, 21-15 against Anders Antonsen.
Third Singles: H S Prannoy wins 13-21, 21-9, 21-12 against Rasmus Gemke.
This is new India. Take a bow.
(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).