An injury free 2023 season is what HS Prannoy and his fans deserve

An injury free 2023 season is what HS Prannoy and his fans deserve

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With a Youth Olympic medal in 2010, a junior world championship medal in the same, to three BWF titles, Prannoy's career has largely remained unfulfilled. Look at the stats ever since he joined the seniors, he has been one of those one-match wonders where mostly he has succumbed under pressure.

Let's just start with 2015...he entered the India Open on the back of a few decent performances and won his first match against Mischa Zilberman of Israel. He then went on to stun the then world no.2 Jan o Jorgensen in the pre-quarters but lost out to little-known Viktor Axelsen in the quarters. Come 2017, he had already established his reputation as a blow hot and cold player, and his loss to the unknown Kazumasa Sakai of Japan, after wins against Anthony Ginting, Lee Chong Wei, and Chen Long, in the previous round, testified to the fact.

And it just did not stop there. In 2021, at the Indonesia Masters, he beat Axelsen in the Round of 16 but lost to compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in the quarters. As recent as the BWF World Tour Finals, he won against Axelsen again, but only after losing the first two matches to Kodai Naraoka and Lu Guangzu. Mind you, Axelsen won the year-ending tournament. So his lack of consistency, the tendency of succumbing to it whatever, is outright annoying. 
A major part of this could also be attributed to the gazillion injuries he's faced in his career. It would just be impossible to keep a track of them, and even Prannoy's doctors would find it difficult; but there have been times when his game has taken a major hit due to fitness issues. Back in 2011, just before the nationals, he suffered a knee injury; had another one in 2012. The same year he injured his back and took over six months to get back on the court. A major part of 2015 was lost to injuries too, and then in 2016, at the Singapore Open, he injured his toe. The same year, during the PBL, he had toe and knee injuries again.
In 2018, he was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux during the 2018 World Championship, which took a lot of time to heal. The former world no.8 then suffered the after-effects of Covid-19, and the lining of his lungs got inflamed. In 2021, just before the European circuit, he also had a bad back, which he battled for weeks. 
In an interview with ESPN last year, Prannoy said, "It's really disappointing that I'm not able to get consistent wins across tournaments. I've had lots of breaks and gaps in my career and tons of issues with my body. Once I sort one, I'm on to the next. For the past four or five years, I've just been running around each and every portion of my body, and plus COVID happened, and all those things have been really draining. It can be tough to manage all of it alone, find the right balance and continue to train and compete at this level. It's been a recurrent theme for a few years now. I have no one to blame. I just have to focus on what can be done and play the best I can."
But all this is just one side of the coin. Perhaps the story has not yet reached its climax for the Trivandrum lad. He has somehow managed to stay relevant despite going through so much in his rather long career. Just imagine a player having joined the senior circuit 12 years back, or even more, and has managed to stay top 20 in the rankings for the most part of that duration. He attained his career-best ranking of world no.8 in 2018, slipped to 33 last year, but is currently at the 12th spot. He has been, a bit of what perhaps cricketer Shoaib Akhtar was for Pakistan. Come in full throttle, do your job as if there is no tomorrow, and torment your opponents. Along the way, you'll have ups and downs, but there'll always be a question mark, as to what the limit is for you, and where you can reach it. 
Look at how well 2022 turned out for the Indians. After a long, he could get in a full season, and the results are for everyone to see. He is seen as the architect of India's Thomas Cup win, despite the presence of Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen, was the runners-up at the Swiss Open, played the semis at Indonesia and Malaysia, and had seven quarters appearances. That undoubtedly makes him the most consistent player in India for 2022. 
Prannoy, who has a strong all-round game, maybe even better than that of Srikanth, one can only wonder what this boy can achieve if he gets in two years of injury-free badminton. While his fans know what the Asian Championships bronze medalist can achieve, his unpredictability is only making them cross their fingers and hope for the best.

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