Gurusaidutt is like a busy bee without a buzz or bombast in Indian badminton. Almost hidden behind the likes of K Srikanth and P Kashyap owing to his modest frame and no-frills game, India’s No 3 shuttler in men’s singles had been mopping up after his team-mates throughout this Thomas Cup campaign, going about his rearguard job against Malaysia and Korea minus any fuss.
After taking a 20-15 lead in the deciding game of the final tie versus Germany’s Lukas Schmidt, with both teams poised at 2-2 and fighting for pride, Guru was demanding spectator’s attention at Siri Fort for once. Tugging at their hearts and compelling his courtside coaches, teammates and the home support to root for him as the finish-line approached.
The match was inconsequential for both teams. But the value of a win in the Thomas Cup cannot be under-estimated. Gurusaidutt’s was the decisive match with both India and Germany having split honours, winning two matches each before his third singles match-off.
After losing the first game 14-21, the Indian had fought back to take the second 19-21 and was just a single point away from clinching the team win. The German though clawed his way back, and at 20-19 another mistake from Gurusaidutt could have upturned the momentum.
Feeling the pressure, Gurusaidutt turned to coach Gopichand who advised his ward to push to the forehand side of the German. Guru double-checked if he had heard that clear and then dutifully executed the stroke. A few seconds later, the German’s return was dumped into the net, and the tie pocketed. Gurusaidutt walked towards the coach with folded hands of gratitude. Shortly the coach and his ward were embracing, with Guru keeping a clean slate having won all his ties at the Siri Fort — a much-needed reassurance of his defensive style, where he lunges and dives around the court as if his life depended on picking the drooping shuttles.
The consolation 3-2 win was the silver lining to India’s Thomas Cup campaign, but in 24 hours the women’s team would be engaged in a tie of far greater consequence — the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup where the women will need to bring to court a similar fighting spirit that the men exhibited against the hardy Germans.
Gopichand said that the key to India’s progress beyond the quarter-finals will depend on the first two singles and the subsequent doubles. “In a team championship anything is possible, but we have to win three games. Before the tournament started I said there is a good possibility of us reaching quarters. That was the first hurdle and now the semifinals is the second step,” the chief national coach said on eve of the last eight tie.
About repeating the surprise Saina-Sindhu pairing continued…