A new champion

Srikanth’s success mirrors the coming of age of his sport. India can no longer afford to play down badminton.

Updated: June 27, 2017 8:13 am
k srikanth srikanth, kidambi srikant, australian super series, australian open super series, badminton news, sports news, indian express Sydney: Shuttler Kidambi Srikanth poses with the trophy after winning the Australian Open Super Series title in Sydney on Sunday. PTI Photo (STORY SPD4) (PTI6_25_2017_000177B)

Some mistook June 18 for a sporting Super Sunday. The cricketers unexpectedly lost to Pakistan, the hockey team predictably drubbed a very poor neighbour’s team and Srikanth kept his end of the bargain beating a Japanese for the Indonesian Open Premier Super Series title. A week later, the shuttler ramped it up further for a second title against a bigger opponent but that Super Sunday had collapsed into a sulking weekend, with hockey going to Malaysia and Canada and cricket bickering over the national coach.

That’s sport. But it doesn’t behove a mature nation to churlishly see one sporting victory from the prism of another team’s defeat. Badminton’s consistent headlines on a score of Sundays for close to seven years now deserve to be deemed as its emergence as a successful sport with its own script, rather than peeking out of the shadows of cricket and its money. Srikanth’s is an individual’s and system’s success story which needs neither the rabid resentment against cricket to prop it up, nor a comparison with P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Both girls as well as the male singles players — Kashyap, Ajay Jayram, Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma and H.S. Prannoy, or doubles stars Jwala Gutta, V. Diju and Ashwini Ponappa — worked hard and earned their fame and funding.

Srikanth’s success — four Super Series titles now — also spells out the formula of sporting success: Giving athletes “facilities” doesn’t mean blanket splurging on stadiums, and import of equipment and coaches. It needs precise planning, innovation and expertise of former players. Many sports have received greater funding in India but not shown the consistency of badminton’s results. As for the 24-year-old, it’s time to shrug off amateurish complaints of a nation that is a sleeping giant which refuses to wake up owing to lack of infrastructure. Srikanth woke up each day at 4 am — as did his coach Gopichand — and trained hard to get here. Now the country can stop the cribbing and learn to tell apart rival Viktor Axelsen’s backhand net pushes from Chen Long’s forehand dribbles.

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