Thursday, March 30, 2023

India’s historic WBF win

Indian Men’s Badminton team scripted history by winning the Thomas Cup for the first time ever, dethroning 14-time Champions Indonesia in Bangkok on May 15,2022. Only five countries had won the Thomas Cup, men’s badminton’s world championships, before May 15,2022. The fighting spirit and depth of the Indian squad was witnessed when the players overcome initial setback to overturn their respective matches in their favour. In the 2022 Thomas Cup final, the odds were stacked against India – across the net were the players from Indonesia, 11-time winners of the tournament. They were also the defending champions, having humbled China 3-0 two years ago – and most of the stars of that victory were in the current team that India confronted in the final in Bangkok. Yet, India won 3-0 with three superb performances by singles players Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth and the doubles team of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. This triumph matches anything India has ever achieved in any sport because India beat three badminton superpowers in three high-pressure contests – Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia. It lost only one rubber, 2-3 to a very strong team from Chinese Taipei, before edging out Malaysia and Denmark by the same margin in the knockout stage. Prannoy, who has been outshone by others in the past, was the hero of the wins over Malaysia and Denmark, winning his matches after the scores were tied 2-2. Rankireddy and Shetty were sensational, especially in the final when they saved four match points in putting India 2-0 up. The Indonesians are still a dominant force in world badminton which includes super powers such as – China, Denmark, Japan, S. Korea, England, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, India, Malaysia, Hongkong, and Singapore. Before the historic win on May 15,2022, India’s best performance was to reach the semi-finals on three occasions with the last being in 1979. In the tournament’s 73-year history, India’s previous best was a semifinals place on three occasions, the last time in 1979. Prior to the men lifting the Cup in a historic feat, the India women’s team had also come close during the past decade through the performances of Saina Nehwal and P.V.Sindhu. However, this time it was a different men’s team which acquired great depth, under the guidance of the Pullela Gopichand. Srikanth, who rose to world No. 1 in 2018, is currently No. 11 while Lakshya Sen is No. 9 and H.S. Prannoy No. 23. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are as strong and competitive and compliment the team. These players can take on and beat the best. So, though the win over Indonesia may be exhilarating, it was not unexpected. The government of India announced a reward of Rs.1 crore for the entire men’s team. This amount is a pittance when compared with the bonus of Rs.5 crore that Indian men’s cricket team were paid after their win in the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2021-22. A cricket player with a Grade A+ contract earns Rs 7 crore per year while those in Grade A earn Rs 5 crore. Those in Grade B have a salary of Rs 3 crore. The players in Grade C draw Rs 1 crore per year. Also in comparison cricket under ICC is played by only 12 countries, while badminton under Badminton World Federation (BWF) is played by 176 countries organised into 5 continental confederations. It is time that India gave credit where it is due and it is long overdue for badminton.

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