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Where is the promised golden period of Indian Badminton heading?

In this blog, we will analyze the current situation of Indian badminton and where is the promised golden period heading!

RR
Last updated: 25.04.2020
The golden period of Indian Badminton | Sports Social Blog

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"This is the golden period for Indian Badminton."

 

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Back in 2015, when a certain Saina Nehwal was perceivably moving forward and was focused on her career more than anything else. And PV Sindhu, the current world champion, had two championship bronze medals in the bag already. Six other shuttlers in the top 50 in Men's singles too. Those were exciting times for Indian Badminton. Injected another heavy dose of popularity by a thumping run to the Olympic final by Sindhu. As said by the legend Prakash Padukone himself, indeed that was a golden period of Indian Badminton.

 

In pic: Saina Nehwal with husband Parupalli Kashyap

 

India was set to become a badminton superpower by this time, much like Japan, China and Indonesia. But where do we stand now? Can we consider this as 'golden'? Recent performances tell a different story. Let's dive deep into individual stories:

 

What has happened to Saina:


Saina Nehwal is no longer the fiddly 25-year-old that she once was, running up and down the court is a thing of the past. The deterioration in stamina is apparent. She had to deal with a fair share of injuries too. But in no way, this could justify how she is lacking behind so much in the race for Tokyo. Last season, she did show some glimpses of the past. A semi-final run in the Malaysian Open, beating Nozomi Okuhara in the meanwhile. And followed it up with a win in the Indonesian Open.


 

But, she failed to make it past the first round on seven separate occasions. Having featured with distinction in Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro; the Indian shuttler will need to clinch more than 6000 points to qualify. But she made it very clear that she wants it more than anything. The 29-year-old gave the PBL a miss for the first time in her career. Saying no to such a lucrative league is a decision taken in the right direction. But she needs to show that attitude on the court too. A lot is expected from the shuttler who continues to inspire a new generation of players right from the advent of the last decade.

 

In pic: Srikanth Kidambi

 

The Men's Singles fiasco:


With four superseries wins in 2017, Shrikanth Kidambi set a new benchmark in the Indian Badminton fraternity. In 2018, the Guntur-born shuttler claimed the world number one ranking in Men's singles. Prakash Padukone is the only other player hailing from India to have achieved this feat in the Men's category. But a string of first-round exits meant he was out of the top ten. 2019 was not kind for him. So much so that the race for Tokyo looks pretty difficult for Srikanth.

 

It's a bad patch for him. Everyone has them- from Lionel Messi to Roger Federer and even Virat Kohli- and it's not like he has not been trying. During the end of 2019, his semi-final run in Hong Kong meant that he was returning to the kind of form that is expected out of him. But 2020 began on an ominous note with three straight first-round exits. The story has been very similar for HS Prannoy too. The Delhi-based shuttler had to deal with injury issues for the majority of the last season. His best performance was beating Lin Dan and reaching the last sixteen of the world championship. The 27-year-old is not the same fiersty, hungry self that he once was. He needs to up his socks. Although, Sai Praneeth, Sourabh Verma and Lakshya Sen have looked good.

 

 

Where does Indian Badminton stand:


The situation in Doubles is even worse. Apart from Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, no player has been able to make a mark. Other than Ashwini Ponappa and N Sikki Reddy, no other women's double pair even features on the International Circuit. Even they fail to register a single win and crash out in the first round, mostly. And Mixed doubles? let's not talk about it. Second-string shuttlers don't even exist in the country. Who is beyond Saina and Sindhu? Noone. Blame it on the lack of support, or mismanagement, or anything.

 

Look at the depth of countries like Japan, China, Indonesia, and Korea. India is nowhere close and there is no comparison at the moment. And how can you blame injuries for everything, that's why money is being pumped into fitness programs and research on how to avoid them. Even Kanto Momota and Tai Tzu Ying face the same challenge.

 

In pic: 20-year-old Ashmita Chaliha

 

Are youngsters even taking advantage of PBL exposure?


The Indian Badminton League, later rechristened to Premier Badminton League, is a franchise-based, IPL style league that would lead to a new generation of Indian shuttlers. Six years down the line, there aren't any next-generation players in the picture. There are a host of reasons: it's just a three-weeks long event with almost no practice period before the tournament. The PBL is done and dusted in 20 days. Because of BWF's tight schedule, it's tough to extend it into a longer format.

 

With Marin, Shrikanth, Prannoy, and Saina among the notable absentees in the last season of the PBL, it was a golden opportunity for other shuttlers in India. The likes of Ashmita Chaliha, Gayatri Gopichand, and Priyanshu Rajawat were all given a chance to shine. This is what the PBL was meant to be. The 17-year-olds exchanged shuttles with stars like Tai Tzu, Sindhu, Yong Dae and Hendra Setiawan. But the performances from the younger players have been below par, which often leaves one wondering, are they even good enough?

 

In pic: Lakshya Sen

 

Are there only dark spots?


Of course not. Lakshya Sen has shown that he is capable of doing well on the International Circuit. He has moved from strength to strength in the 2019 season. The title wins and good performances have definitely spurred confidence back in him. Sindhu, although inconsistent, has shown that she has changed and improved. After several final defeats and being questioned for her big match temperament, the Hyderabad-based shuttler won gold at the world championship.

 

Sai Praneeth's bronze at the world championship was a welcome treat in the Men's category, which has been lackluster for the better part of the 2019 season. Satwik and Chirag have risen up the ranks and set the stage on fire. It's arguable whether this is a golden period or not. But one cannot say that Indian badminton is on a standstill. It has moved forward, not to expected margins, but definitely somewhat. Introspection, proper planning, strategizing and grassroots development is the need of the hour. Let's wait and watch.

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