The Indian duo win their maiden title in the 1000 series, marking a new chapter as the country looks forward to energise other sports, not just one. Progressively, we are doing better, with badminton being an old sport where we had corned some glory in the past. Is a revival on the cards?
Satwik-Chirag’s gold medal win defeating the world champions Indonesia is a big confidence booster just ahead of the World Championships, scheduled in Denmark later in August this year. They had to settle for a bronze in this same event in 2022 WC. They are India’s steadiest high-performance pair in the past several decades. Ranked amongst the top 8 pairs, they present a great chance for a gold in WC as also Olympics 2024. The Men’s doubles has always been dominated by Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Denmark. It is their grit and sheer intelligence at play that has taken them to this level, even when they have hardly any sparring partner for their training. Both Indian and foreign coaches have helped them over the past 8 years. BAI deserves credit for this support extended to them.
With Satwik-Chirag coming of age, Indian prospects of picking a badminton medal in Paris Olympic 2024 certainly become brighter. Indian Olympic medal hopes since 2008 Beijing Olympics were limited to women singles. When Saina lost in QF playing against the drift in Beijing, our hearts sank. PV Sindhu had not arrived yet. Eight years later, in the same event came India’s first silver. With PV Sindhu, still a force to reckon with, WS remains our top medal hope in Paris. With the blossoming of Satwik-Chirag, we have a potential bigger basket of medals to fight for and MD becomes a good prospect. With China as badminton power house whining down, Men’s Singles may also throw up a surprise for India; Kadambi Srikanth and Pronnoy cannot be written off. An exciting year ahead and with coaching in full swing with Gopichand leading the charge, we have much to look forward to.
The structure in Badminton is two-tier with two centres of national excellence. There is one at Hyderabad headed by Gopi and the other in Bengaluru headed by Vimal Kumar, with both working in a most healthy rivalry. They have their own team of coaches. Beoynd their efforts is the critical difference that has come around to India’s performance is the training provided by foreign coaches – from Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea with sports science support on the lines of cricket.
Cricket is in India’s DNA. It has been there for over 60 years from the days of Salim Durrani and Farooq Engineer. DNAs are not altered easily. Badminton or for that matter any sport in India is not likely to come anywhere near cricket as a national sport. Hockey and football with sizeable following, have been swept aside by cricket’s awesome challenge. Our nation has shown space for just one mania so far. That space is already occupied. But there is no saying how the future unfolds.
Admittedly, cricket offers a lot more excitement in viewership. It is truly a spectator sport unlike badminton rallies which have recently crossed the mark of 100 for a single point. Sponsorship in badminton is big money but only for the few who win individual laurels like Sindhu, Saina, Kadambi etc. No corporate body has yet taken up badminton. This is a must for grass root development. Reliance had shown interest in 2010 (I had a one-on-one 44 minute long meeting with Mukesh Ambani in 2010 in Mumbai). It is yet to be finalised.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
V K Verma is a former President, Badminton Association of India and a former Commercial Director, Air India.