Ahead of the start of the new Premier Badminton League season, we spoke with Mumbai Rockets star HS Prannoy on the need for consistency among Indian players, where World badminton is heading in general, and how the bar has been raised by Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
Q. Hi Prannoy, last year in a close final you had lost a crucial match to Tommy Sugiarto, after winning the first set very easily, so how did you cope with the loss and team's eventual loss?
Prannoy: I think, I was really not disappointed after the final figures. I thought I was the underdog against Tommy and he won all the matches before also and after the first set, I thought I could've done better in the second and third but, I was not really fully fit that time. It was kind of tough for me, but I think this time I'm gonna do better.
Q.After a rapid rise, the Indian badminton has hit a plateau with Sindhu's win. So, what do you think is needed for India to reach the next level, apart from PBL?
Prannoy: I think we need to be consistent on the international circuit and we need to be in the Top 10 very consistently. I think that is going to be the challenge for the Indian players who are playing at the next level. And we need to beat the top players more consistently.
Q. In 2015, you showed a lot of promise, you were knocking at the door at the Top 10. But in 2016, you have slowed down a bit after the Swiss Open victory. So, how are you looking at 2017?
Prannoy: I think after 2016, it was tough for me after a couple of injuries. And probably, towards the end of 2016, I got back to my....form. I think 2017 is going to be a lot better. Let's see how the All England and Swiss Open events start. I just want to perform well in 2017.
Prannoy: I think the competition in men's is much tougher especially at the world level. Especially, in men's singles, we have almost six to seven who are at the top 50 of the world from our country. And it is very difficult to beat the Top 5 very consistently. And, we need to do on a consistent basis so that we reach the level Sindhu and Saina is playing.
Q.With Lin Dan retiring, Lee Chong Wee nearing it and Chen Long not appearing as dominant, where do you think the men's badminton is going?
Prannoy: I think now it's open, the doors are open after Chen Long and Lee Chong Wee and Lin Dan have been down from the last couple of years. But I think now it's the time for the youngsters to take that chance and go on to win the Superseries and all other events.
Q. Leaving Mumbai aside, who do you think are the other favorites to win the PBL?
Prannoy: I think every team is strong and Bengaluru looks really strong. Bengaluru and Chennai look really strong for me.
Q. How do you think PBL has impacted Indian badminton so far?
Prannoy: It has impacted big time. Because players have been able to play against top players regularly in the league and we are able to interact with the top players. That is the big advantage with the PBL happening for us.
Q. Which player do you fear the most to face in the badminton court given your strengths and weaknesses?
Prannoy: Chen Long is the toughest player for me. I have found it really tough playing against him.
Q. You are one of the few players to come from a state that is not a badminton center in India. How did the journey happeened and where do you see the next talent come for India?
Prannoy: I think Kerala has not been doing great in badminton right now and I am really happy that I am able to do well for the state and the country.
Q. Last question. Why did you choose to make badminton a career in a cricket-dominated country?
Prannoy: That was just pure passion. I just love the sport and probably the performances that came when I was fifteen or sixteen that really encouraged me and I think, just pure passion.