Kidambi Srikanth showed why he is rated highly for his aggressive game as he beat Danish Jan O Jorgensen 21-19, 21-19 in one of the most bruising exhibitions of all-out attack from the Indian in the pre-quarters of the Olympics. He set up a rematch with China’s Lin Dan — gunning for his third gold, but beatable as the Indian has shown previously.
While all the attention in badminton over the last few years has been centred on Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, the soft spoken K Srikanth has allowed his bubbling talent to steam out just at the right time. It is no secret that P Gopichand saw outstanding potential in a boy who was both talented and shared his own inclination for aggressive play. Only, the Indian top-ranked shuttler needed firepower in his arsenal — a stronger body that coach Gopi had been working on steadily.
Today at the Riocentro arena 4, Srikanth would come up against the defensive machine Jan O — a high-ranked Dane who has somehow stumbled against offense-loving Indians, having gone down to HS Prannoy regularly. Srikanth is Prannoy upgraded to the power of two in attack. And it needed just a no-holds-barred gameplan, where the Indian refused to be drawn into long rallies and went for the kill at the soonest instance to evict the seeded player out of the draw.
“Basically it was about keeping it simple, not making mistakes,” Srikanth said. Not collapsing in a puddle of errors, keeping his nerve — at his first-ever Olympics.
Gopichand has repeatedly stressed on the Olympics being a test of keeping calm and adjusting to the conditions, as much as talent and conditioning and skill.
“I played a good attacking game today. Even though I lost a lot of first round matches over the last few months, my confidence never went down because I wasn’t going down in single digits – all the matches were close,” Srikanth would say, of his low profile lead up to the big Games.
He first came to prominence when he beat Lin Dan late in 2014 in China – a remarkable victory, pushing a legend to look unsteady and wavering and helpless.
However, he’s lost to some pretty ordinary players in the interim, which means he’s never looked the most consistent of Indian shuttlers. Still, it sets up what ought to be an exciting clash between an attacking all-out player with a range of unconventional strokes and the multiple World champ who has been up and down, but can be expected to bring out the necessary weapons as he chases his third title.
“Against Lin Dan in the quarter-finals – it’s a dream come true as he’s my idol. It’s a long time since I beat him last time in the China Open final, so this will be a new game,” Srikanth would say – the heavy burden of history shirked off lightly, to set up a fresh day.
India smarting from the injury and exit of Saina Nehwal are hoping their first time Olympians script a fresh tale.