2016 was redoubtably seen as a landmark year for Indian badminton. However, what has transpired in 2017 so far has managed to raise the bar to a whole new level and on the basis of that, one can be rest assured that India will bag a medal at the upcoming World Championships.
The fact that Indian badminton is in the midst of a golden era is plain to see and as this was proven to be the case more than ever before when P.V. Sindhu clinched the silver medal at last year's Rio Olympics. And understandably, her achievement was seen as a watershed moment for Indian badminton. Moreover, as expected not only did Sindhu’s achievement help India re-find it’s collective love for the game, it also marked the beginning of India’s ongoing dominance in the sport.
Ever since the last Olympics, Indian badminton has continued to go from strength to strength as the likes of Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, and B. Sai Praneeth have proven that Sindhu’s medal in Rio was not a flash in the pan as they have consistently made it to the latter stages of international tournaments. More importantly, this has also seen Indian shuttlers face off against each other in the finals of Superseries and Grand Prix level tournaments as was the case when Sai Praneeth faced compatriot Srikanth in the final of the Singapore Open Super Series event. Not only was this the first time two Indians faced off in the finals of a Super Series event, it also underlined India’s current reputation as a badminton super power. But perhaps most importantly, it shows that regardless of which Indian player won the personal battle between themselves, Indian badminton would always prove to be the ultimate winner.
However, none of this would have been possible without the support of a certain Mulyo Handoyo, the Indonesian coach, who was best known for coaching Taufik Hidayat - the former World and Olympic champion in men's singles, was roped in earlier this year to ease the workload on Pullela Gopichand. And upon his arrival itself, Handoyo had singled out Srikanth as the player he wanted to work closely with as he saw the Guntur lad as a potential ‘world beater’. In fact, the Indonesian even went on to say, "In India the player with the style closest to Taufik is Srikanth. He has an
Handoyo even went onto add, "He reminds me of him (Taufik Hidayat), but he doesn't have the same power." Having said that, the Indonesian had also marked out the Srikanth’s game that they 24-year-old would have to improve on. Given that Srikanth was coming off the back of an injury he had suffered at last year’s Olympic Games, Handoyo had specifically mentioned, "He needs to develop that winning mentality once again. Srikanth has the ability to be with anyone at the highest level and he has the experience to get him back there too. He needs to train harder and be more focused. But he has the experience already so he knows what he has to do to get better results."
And just over a few months after Handoyo had said this, Srikanth has proven his coach’s words to be true as he created history by becoming the first Indian to lift back to back Super Series titles at the Indonesia Open and the Australian Open. However, Srikanth himself has acknowledged that none of this would have been possible had it not been for the support and guidance of his new coach.
Speaking after his Indonesian Open triumph, Srikanth was quoted as saying, “His contribution to my game has been incredible. He has already made a special place in my heart.” And while Srikanth might be the one who has benefitted the most from Handoyo’s presence it must also be noted that Sindhu has won titles at the Syed Modi International Grand Prix in Lucknow and also bagged the India Open Super Series title in Delhi. In the meantime, Sai Praneeth also won a double in the form of the Singapore Open Superseries and Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold wins and one can safely assume that the Indonesian coach has had an integral part to play in the Indian contingent's recent success.
Now, riding on the back of yet another incredibly successful year, India’s famed badminton contingent heads into the upcoming World Championships in Glasgow that start on August 21st in Glasgow as clear
This acknowledgment of Indians being a threat to others at the World Championships combined with the fact that the likes of Srikanth, Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have all been handed easy draws at the Championships one can rest assured that India will not only make it to the final stages of the tournament but will also certainly win a medal at the prestigious event. And that would be a fine way to cap off yet another glorious year for Indian badminton.