Indian badminton or more specifically Indian badminton on the men’s side is going through a surge. Three of the six Super Series events have been won by an Indian shuttler and the hopes have been raised by fans that they will deliver at the World Championship in August. Kidambi Srikanth – who has won two of those Super Series events – has, expectedly, opted to keep his feet on the ground while maintaining that a medal is a distinct possibility.
Three Indian shuttlers – Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth and Ajay Jayaram – have qualified for the World Championships that will be held in Glasgow from August 21-27. “I think we all are playing well. I can’t really say if we will definitely win a medal. We have a chance for sure but we have to be 100 per cent on that day and every match,” he said on the sidelines of a felicitation ceremony held by Sports Minister Vijay Goel to honour Srikanth and Gopichand for recent success where the Guntur shuttler won the Indonesia and Australia Super Series events in successive weeks.
“We have to play consistently well, because it is such a big tournament and everyone prepares really hard,” he added.
In the recent weeks, Srikanth and HS Prannoy have gathered lots of eyeballs with their superb results. Srikanth beat World No 1 Son Wan Ho twice in two weeks and Prannoy beat former World No 1s Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei in successive matches in Jakarta. “I think everyone in top 30-35 are playing well. If you actually see HS Prannoy was 29 before Indonesia Open and see how he beat Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei in successive matches. So everyone in the top 35 are playing well.”
“The game now is definitely physical for sure. You have to be really alert on the court, move well, for an hour, so it is more physical then skills. But I think the level of the game is growing in the other players as well.”
Srikanth is on an incredible run with three straight Super Series finals – Singapore, Indonesia and Australia – with titles in the latter two. It has propelled his ranking to World No 8. “It has been fantastic the last one month. Right from Singapore Open, it has been great. I have received more than what I have asked for, so I am very happy. I don’t know how to express,” said Srikanth, who also won the 2014 China Super Series Premier and 2015 India Super Series. “I’m peaking at the right time. I am really happy how I played last one month. I really want to train hard for the next few weeks ahead of the tournament and play consistently at the World championship,” he said.
Srikanth remained optimistic about his play in the last two years despite some narrow defeats – including one in the quarters of the Rio Olympics. “I never lost the chance of being in team. After winning the China Open I won the India Open in 2015. I managed to win the Syed Modi in 2016 and then lost the Olympic quarters by just a point. So I have been playing well in the important tournaments,” he said.
“The matches I lost were very close one, three sets. It is not easy but I always believed that if I can continue working hard, I can do well and I am happy everything worked for me,” he added.
He had a blip after the Olympics where injury kept him out for a considerable period. Instead of seeing it as a downturn, Srikanth saw it as an opportunity to learn and credited Gopichand and new Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo for it. “The injury part changed me. My approach towards training and the way I trained with Gopi sir and our new Indonesian coach Mulyo, it really worked for me,” Srikanth said. “I think we only had Gopi sir before and now we have Mulyo, who has seen the highest level of badminton and with both of their inputs, it has really helped me. Now two people are working to improve Indian badminton and it is really working for us.”