Thomas Cup win has enhanced India’s prestige in world badminton

India’s glorious victory in the Thomas Cup championship on Sunday has enhanced the country’s prestige in world badminton. The triumph ranks with the greatest moments in the history of Indian sports such as our victory in cricket’s Prudential World Cup in 1983. The cream of the world’s badminton players will now take Indian players very seriously. No longer can India be considered a push over because it now has a large number of world class players.

Former international player Manoj Kumar of Hyderabad who in his heyday used to be one of India’s top shuttlers, says that the main factor for India’s rise in stature is due to the greater exposure and sponsorship that badminton players have begun to get. Speaking to he said that the players of today have a new found confidence that has come from the numerous international tournaments that they play in.

“There was a time when we had very little funds to go abroad to take part in international events. We had no foreign coaches and we had to use equipment that was not up to the mark. We did not have top quality Yonex shuttles and racquets. I can remember an occasion when I went to play in a tournament in Indonesia and Gopichand (now national coach) asked me to bring him racquets from there,” said Manoj.

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“Now there is the support staff such as physios and half a dozen highly qualified coaches who are involved in training the players. Back when I was playing, we just had one coach and one manager. Therefore we could not get individual guidance and assistance during our matches against top foreign players. India had talent in the past also. But due to shortage of funds, the talent could not be harnessed to the maximum capacity like it is being done now,” he said.

“Moreover, this time we have a great team. It is balanced and has all round depth and strength. Earlier our teams used to have just one or two talented players and the rest were weak. Usually the doubles combination was weak. But now we have a terrific doubles combination in the form of Satwiksairaj and Chirag Shetty. They are very experienced along with Kidambi Srikanth and H.S. Prannoy. Young Lakshya Sen is a great find too. So we have a fantastic set of players at this point of time. In the world rankings, there are 5 Indians in the top 50 and 10 in the top 100,” said Manoj.

“They will surely inspire the next generation. Already I have noticed a second line of noteworthy players forming behind our top rung. These boys and girls are going to continue our dominance in the future. The Badminton Association of India (BAI) should make efforts to see that the momentum is maintained. There should be no let up. With hard work and coordination between all the concerned parties, India can achieve everything that Indonesia, China and Malaysia have achieved in world badminton,” concluded Manoj.

In the history of the Thomas Cup which is the world championship of men’s badminton, Indonesia is the topmost team having won the title 14 times. Next is China with 10 titles and then Malaysia with five. Denmark and Japan have won the title once each and now India has joined the elite band.  It is noteworthy that in the final India defeated powerhouse Indonesia which stands head and shoulders above every other country in world badminton. For the Indian players and their fans it was a dream come true.

Since 1949 when the Thomas Cup tournament first began, India’s best performance was a fourth place finish in 1979. Those were the days when the peerless Prakash Padukone was rising as a great player in world badminton. As Manoj has underlined, it was always the lack of depth that prevented India from clinching a medal. While one or two good players were there, the team as one unit, lacked strength. But all that has undergone a dramatic change in 2022.

H.S. Prannoy, who is a member of the victorious team, said:

“Look at the team. Everybody is stepping up and everybody wants to prove a point. I think that is very important for the next generation to come from India. We want them to see that we are right up there in the world. We were determined to fight to the finish no matter what.” It was this fire and resolve that enabled India to win the trophy against all odds on Sunday.

Needless to say social media was flooded with congratulatory messages for the players.

Among those who registered their happiness on Twitter was Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. He tweeted: “A historic achievement and a massive moment for Indian badminton. Congratulations team India for winning the Thomas Cup.”  India’s football captain Sunil Chhetri tweeted: “What a moment for Indian sport. We are Thomas Cup champions for the first time ever and we beat the best to make it happen. Congrats to the players and staff.”

It was so encouraging and inspiring to see these famous names of Indian sport praising the historic feat of our badminton players.

I firmly believe that this victory would make a strong contender for the champion award from here onwards.

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