Saturday 25 Jun 2022

Thomas Cup win should inspire new confidence

THE GOAN NETWORK | MAY 16, 2022, 11:18 PM IST

India scripted a historic and maiden Thomas Cup triumph beating Indonesia 3-0 in a pulsating final. The final turned out to be an exemplary show of grit and determination with the young Indian team showing the nerve to bounce back at crucial moments and seize the momentum. The triumph was hailed by veteran sporting personalities, some drawing a parallel to the epoch-making cricket World Cup win in 1983.

For Indian badminton fans, the sport has always revolved around its singles stars, especially the world-class talents of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. With their Olympic exploits and regular success at BWF events over the years, the duo has been the cynosure of the eyes of Indian fans. However, there has been precious little to celebrate the success of our male stars in recent years, bar the ascent of Kidambi Srikanth to World No. 1 in 2017. Also, there was nothing to speak of for Indian men in the team format.

The unexpected success of the Indian men's team in the Thomas Cup, where they won their maiden title on Sunday, has changed that. It is something to cheer for individual success but when it involves team sport, the collective success gives a country a rare high. Sunday's win would likely be a watershed moment for Indian badminton if we build on this success. The heroics of Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi and later Pullela Gopichand had raised the profile of the shuttle sport in India, while the success of Saina and Sindhu gave it prime time space on TV.

Now, the giant feat of Srikanth, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, and the doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, has set a new template for the sport in the country to take the positives and further improve the systems which will produce future shuttle stars. The involvement and support of the Union government will be key to unlocking the badminton potential in the country further. While former legends like Gopichand, Padukone, Vimal Kumar and many others are doing a great job at spotting and developing talent, the sport will flourish with better coordination among the government's sports facilitating bodies and utilisation of allocated funds and resources.

Cut into Goa, and the foremost question is whether this victory and the success of our shuttlers Tanisha Crasto and Arjun Fallari, both of whom have been representing the national team with the former making it to the Uber Cup squad this year, inspire the minds of the State government and administrators to do a rethink on badminton. Unfortunately, Goa, which boasts of a few indoor stadiums, lacks the intent to support badminton or nurture talent. While academies are mushrooming in other States like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, in Goa badminton has largely remained a luxurious ‘pass-time’. Badminton as a sport has never been a priority, leave aside the funding part of it.

Leave alone badminton, in football Goa which was once rubbing shoulders with Calcutta giants like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, has now cut out a sorry figure. It is because, while the State government has been boasting about its sports infrastructure, it has lost focus on other crucial aspects of sports that have evolved. The level of badminton has undergone a sea change in all its spheres -- professionalism, skill, flexibility, training, diet and nutrition, personal coaching and overall fitness. An eco-system is needed where a player has to be provided with necessary support and facilities if the international stage is the target.

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