HYDERABAD: India’s splendid feat of storming into the Thomas Cup closing has shocked many the world over. Whereas the Indian followers are celebrating this monumental event, the size of this victory will likely be understood solely by critical followers of the sport. Profitable particular person titles is totally different however doing nicely in crew occasions like Thomas Cup signifies the depth of the Indian squad. It additionally tells us how far the game has come, in comparison with 15 years in the past when there was little following.
Within the late 90s, Pullela Gopichand’s mom Subbaravamma used to name newspaper workplaces and tv channels to provide the scores of her son’s matches.
Issues didn’t change a lot even after Gopichand’s triumph on the All England Championships in 2001, however as soon as he took over as India’s chief coach, there was regular enchancment not solely within the efficiency of the gamers, but in addition within the reputation of the game.
Numerous credit score for this turnaround goes to Gopichand. Gopi himself factors to a few main incidents and personalities for turning the fortunes of shuttle sport within the nation.
In 2004, when Sania Mirza gained the WTA Hyderabad Open singles title, the tennis stadium was packed past capability. That made the then SAAP vice-chairman LV Subramanyam realise that to popularise a sport one must conduct worldwide tournaments. From then on, yearly Hyderabad hosted a world badminton occasion and the World Championships in 2009. “His (LV’s) foresight helped us to enhance the recognition of the game,” Gopichand mentioned.
The second incident was Saina’s quarterfinal end on the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Individuals began taking discover of Saina and adopted her each transfer. She too didn’t disappoint her followers and when she performed the Commonwealth Video games closing in New Delhi, the stadium was packed and police discovered it troublesome to manage the group exterior the stadium.
Thereafter, Saina began profitable one event after the opposite. The NRIs began following her in whichever nation she performed.
One in all Saina’s favorite looking grounds is Indonesia. It is mentioned even the taxi drivers recognise her there and a few even refuse to take the fare from her!
Although Saina grew to become the primary shuttler to win a bronze within the 2012 London Olympics, she didn’t get the credit score due as Indians gained medals in different disciplines too.
However the very subsequent yr, Sindhu took over, profitable World Championship medals yr after yr.
Badminton’s reputation reached its zenith when she gained the singles silver in 2016 Olympic Video games at Rio de Janeiro. Sindhu gained the medal in the direction of the tip of the Video games and it helped that no different Indian had gained a medal in Rio until then. And shortly the nation was cheering Sindhu’s silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze in fast succession. Your entire nation watched Sindhu’s closing towards Carolina Marin and the second she arrived in Delhi proudly displaying the silver medal, she was swarmed by followers on the airport and the lodge. The 20-km lengthy victory procession in Hyderabad was watched with admiration by tens of millions of individuals the world over.
Kidambi Srikanth performed his half in popularising the game by profitable 4 Tremendous Collection titles, a feat no Indian has achieved. Srikanth and Saina grew to become world No.1, even when it was for only one week every. And in step with their achievements and the rising stature of the sport, all three – Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth – signed profitable offers.
The constant success of those shuttlers, all from Gopichand’s academy, modified the face of the sport as hundreds of academies sprung up all around the nation. The emergence of Lakshya Sen has added to the lustre of the sport. Throughout his All England closing, the teenager who trains on the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru, loved the help often reserved for Saina and Sindhu. That somebody like Unnati Hooda, the 14-year-old with no coaching from any reputed academy went on to win the Odisha Open Worldwide occasion reveals that there’s loads of expertise within the nation.
“You may have three singles matches in Thomas Cup. Even if in case you have 10, India will likely be laborious to beat, for such is the depth we’ve got on this nation,” says Gopichand.
Aside from being the chief coach, Gopichand and veteran administrator Punnaiah Choudhary labored relentlessly to get sponsors for the tournaments. “Initially, it was very troublesome to get sponsors. We knew so many individuals and everybody favored Gopichand however only a few gave cash. Gopi used to ask me, ‘sir is it so troublesome to get sponsorships?’ We struggled to get cash for the occasions we carried out between 2005-10,” Punnaiah mentioned.
Alongside along with his buddy Srikanth, Gopichand used to spend many sleepless nights to get every part in place for tournaments. However Saina’s Commonwealth Video games gold medal modified issues. The then BAI president Akhilesh Das Gupta’s resolution to shift these tournaments from Hyderabad to Delhi additionally helped the game.
Earlier than 2006, an Indian shuttler coming into the primary draw or breaking into top-100 was main information. However now dozens of Indians enter the primary draw of a number of worldwide occasions yearly and the entries for home tournaments cross 3000!
From simply coming into the event to Indians reaching the ultimate of worldwide occasions has change into an everyday function now, they usually actually have a devoted fan base, notably in Switzerland, Birmingham, Malaysia and Indonesia.
There’s hectic exercise on social media too at any time when an Indian wins a title. Celebrities like Anand Mahindra, Rajnikanth, Amitabh Bachchan and lots of movie stars ship congratulatory messages. Prime Minister Narendra Modi by no means forgets to applaud the Indian crew.
Age group shuttlers now discover it straightforward to consider that they will make a profession out of sport and the arrogance ranges have zoomed with the Premier Badminton League including to it as worldwide stars are a part of the groups. The prize cash has been hiked for home tournaments and badminton has by no means had it so good within the nation.