Chance to take the big step

Chance to take the big step

Prakash Padukone

No Indian player has succeeded in making an impact on badminton’s biggest stage since Prakash Padukone’s bronze-winning effort in the 1983 World Championship. Incidentally, Padukone’s third-place finish at the Copenhagen bash remains India’s best performance in the 32-year history of the championship.

Even so, the excitement among the Indian badminton buffs around this year’s World meet is understandable. Firstly, the now-annual tournament is being held in India for the first time and then there is the feeling that India’s world number 6 Saina Nehwal might better Padukone’s show. However, the confidence Saina was carrying into the event, following her Indonesian Super Series win, might have suffered a dent with the Hyderabadi hit by a bout of chicken pox just ahead of the championship.

The August 10-16 tourney in Hyderabad is significant to India in more ways than one.
Not only is this the biggest stage of the game, but the quality on the show is also of the highest order. Looking at the field, the Indians, it must be said, have got a favourable draw in the initial rounds. But from the pre-quarters stage onwards it gets increasingly difficult.

Barring Saina and the mixed doubles pair of D Viju and Jwala Gutta -- ranked number 10 the world -- none of the other Indians in the fray is expected to progress beyond the quarterfinal stage and if anyone does so it will be counted as an achievement.

Not that they are not capable of beating the best in the business. India’s best bet in the men’s singles Chetan Anand and reigning National champion Arvind Bhat have had wins over top players in the past but those have been a few and far between. Save Saina, no other Indian has been able to exhibit the temperament to consistently beat higher-ranked players.

Thought process
“It’s the thought process of the Indian players that is their biggest threat,” says former National coach U Vimal Kumar. “Our players go with the mind-set that the Chinese, the Indonesians or the Malaysians are better than them. And they put too much pressure on themselves before stepping onto the court. It not only drains you mentally but you get tired quickly,” he notes.

Citing the example of Saina, the former multiple National champion says: “It’s where Saina scores over other Indian players. She has conquered that fear factor and also, she plays to her strengths which is showing in her results.”

The home support too, Vimal points out, should work to our shuttlers’ advantage. Players agree. “Of course Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei are favourites, but you can’t discount us either. It’s being held in Hyderabad and once the crowd gets behind you, it can do wonders,” say Bhat and Chetan.

Hopefully, at the end of the tournament, we will see something wonderful from an Indian.

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