Kidambi Srikanth to Sai Praneeth: The Rise of Indian Men Shuttlers
Kidam Srikanth has become a national phenomenon due to his meteoritic rise in men’s badminton. The Indian shuttler has become the only Indian and fifth in the world to play three consecutive BWF Super Series finals, of which he won two. Srikanth, the winner of India Open and China Open, has become a big name in Indian badminton after his Indonesia Super Series Premier title and Australia Open Super Series title triumph in 2017. His sensational run in Super Series tournaments indicated the rise of Indian men’s singles players.
While Srikanth, who defeated Olympic medalist Chen Long in the final at the Australia Open and Japanese Kasumasa Sakai in Indonesia Super Series final, is destroying all odds with ease to bring laurels at home, HS Prannoy is known for the giant killing spree. Meanwhile, Sai Praneeth is proving a match for Srikanth with his extraordinary talent. In the Singapore Open Super Series finale he defeated Srikanth in an all India final to win the Super Series title.
India took a decade to produce a talent pool for men’s singles. Indian men are now the most intimidating force who are capable of producing a shocking result. This big change in Indian badminton has happened when India hired Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo and his assistant Hariawan. The duo joined Indian badminton at the beginning of 2017 and completely overhauled the training process by introducing back-breaking long sessions.
Handoyo’s technique helped Srikanth, Praneeth, and Prannoy gain strength mentally and physically. Their strength helped them to outlast their opponents with high jumping smashes and tenacity.
Before the rise of Indian men’s shuttlers, Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu enjoyed the maximum popularity as they marched to break the Chinese wall to assert their domination in the women’s singles. The Olympic medal winning duo are India’s two most prominent badminton players.
In 2010, Saina had won Super Series title in Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, before winning the gold at the Commonwealth Games. This achievement is yet to be matched by any Indian.
But, if you look at 2017, PV Sindhu is the only woman to win a Super Series title at India Open while remaining six titles were shared amongst men’s shuttlers led by Srikanth, who is destroying his opponents. While Srikanth won two consecutive Super series titles at Indonesia and Australia, Sai Praneeth defeated Srikanth to win the Singapore Open Super Series.
Meanwhile, BS Prannoy has won hearts because of his shocking talents beating Olympic medal winning Chinese Lee Chong Wei and Rio Olympic gold medalist Chen Long in two consecutive days in Jakarta. Currently, six Indian players are in the top-35 with Srikanth, Praneeth and Ajay in the top 20. This trio has been trained by Pullela Gopichand, the 2001 All England champion. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are two Olympic silver and bronze medal winning women’s shuttlers who have also been trained by Gopichand.
Alongside the World Championship, there are many Super Series that will be up for grabs for men’s singles players later this year. At Korea (Sept 12-17), Japan (Sept 19- 24), Denmark (Oct 17-22), France (Oct 24-29), China (Nov 14- 19), Hong Kong (Nov 21-26) and Dubai World Super Series Finals (Dec 13-17) will encourage Srikanth, Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap, and Pranoy to excel and keep their domination intact.
The rise of Indian men’s shuttlers, who used to struggle to qualify for the final round in the previous decade, has become a reckoning force in the world thanks to Gopichand, who after retiring from the professional game built his own academy in 2006 to train promising youngsters at his Hyderabad training center. Now he has become a hero in Indian badminton and young aspirants visit his Academy holding their parent’s hand with a wish to become a shuttler like either Srikanth or PV Sindhu or Saina Nehwal.
Talking about India became a reckoning force in the world Gopichand feels it is the culture of sharing expertise and inputs that have helped the shuttlers to go from strength to strength.
But, injury has become a key concern for the men’s players as many talented players fail to play their best game because of injuries. Currently, Prannoy, Kashyap, Ajay Jayaram and Sameer Verma are nurturing a series of injuries, which has made them vulnerable. So, a proper plan and management are needed to manage players to avoid injuries.
Gopichand, at his academy, focuses on optimum fitness to meet the challenge at tournaments. Gopichand’s Academy has created athletes wise medical report and testing to help them find out where they have to improve and what they have to eat to keep themselves fit.
As the men’s players are targeting 2020 Olympic in Tokyo, fitness has become a key concern for players. India doesn’t have many games which are as organized as badminton. Alongside grassroots academies which help players to grow their game the commercial entity likes the Premier Badminton League (PBL). The franchise based PBL has given players the opportunity to play and share their change room with overseas players which helped them to know their tricks of winning games. The PBL has also provided job security to players.
Meanwhile, the rise of Indian shuttlers also helped them gain popularity in countries like Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China, where you will find them on hoardings and billboards at metro stations or at highways, as they have become brands in those countries.