Mathias Boe, the doubles team coach, made sure throughout the match he maintained his poker face, and he should be awarded for how cool and relaxed he looked without showing any signs of nervousness. He recently joined the Indian team in May as the bnew doubles coach.
"Believe me, even as a coach, I was trying to pretend that I was calm but inside I was running around in my body," Denmark's Mathias Boe, who coaches India's star doubles duo Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, says animatedly, recalling his mixture of emotions from the slew of matches India played en route to winning the Thomas cup.
Boe's rehiring has already begun to pay off, as Satwik-Chirag won five of the six games they played at the Thomas Cup, making India's ambition of lifting the Cup for the first time a strange success story. Has this former World No. 1 and Olympic silver medalist shuttler from Denmark fully processed his victory?
"No, not at all. The full implications of what we have achieved haven't sunk in yet," Sitting in his Bangkok hotel room, he tells us. India's Thomas Cup appearance was nerve-wracking and laden with immense pressure, and Mathias Boe was one of the victims. He smiles and says, "I think my pulse was 160 throughout the team's matches and I'm not sure if that was healthy".
Boe could scarcely stay still in his courtside position against the half-and-half Minions and Daddies duo of Kevin Sukamuljo and Mohammad Ahsan. "They (Satwik-Chirag) were down and out in the first game and then Satwik-Chirag pulled off a miracle by coming back at 19-15 in the second! Kevin is the best doubles player right now undoubtedly and to defeat him, finally, at this stage, is such a moment of delight. I'm extremely proud of the boys as they showed how they could cope with the pressure and I'm happy they could contribute to the historical win," Boe says, still giddy after his miraculous run.
Satwik and Chirag had some strong competition in the Thomas Cup, and while they always rose to the occasion, it wasn't without anxieties, as they took matches to deciders, which, coupled with Boe's heart, made the entire country tremble. "I was trying to show them that I am calm and confident so that they don't get more nervous while looking at me not being able to sit still in the chair," Boe says with a relaxed smile on his lips.
"When I was playing too, I didn't want the coach to show too many emotions, cheering is fine but not like rolling your eyes at a mistake or coaching too much, so I was trying to be brave too!" And, if we're looking for a Bollywood-y analogy, every time Satwik-Chirag glanced at him after a point, he sat there Kabir Khan-like from Chak De! India, with a similar expression in his eyes.
But it was enough to instill the surge in the World No. 8 pair and propel them into miracles. The final was indeed a spectacular standoff, with Satwik-Chirag defeating the Indonesian pair for the first time and leading India an inch ahead to the cup, as Chirag flared up on the court, leaping wildly and removing his shirt, in true Sourav Ganguly style, while Satwik rushed to bear hug him and Boe, unable to sit still, leaped onto the court.
"If you ask Chirag now, I'm sure it'll be a blur. I have done crazier things myself," The 24-year-old Mumbai shuttler had a shirtless Shetty moment, according to Boe. "But I saw some still pictures of him jumping during the celebrations and I now wish he can jump as high as that when he is jump smashing," Boe says, eager to devise a clever strategy.
"So when we go home we need to see how we can bring that celebration jump in his game also so he can jump even higher and smash even harder," he laughs. Boe had to combat personal feelings of a different kind in the semi-finals against Denmark, as India was battling his comrades and friends for a spot in their first-ever finals.
"I was totally loyal to India!," shouts Boe, who was mocked as Judas by his Danish teammates for coaching the Indian team during the match. "But, yes, it was a little bit weird to play against your own country. Not just that, they were playing against my teammates and friends. But we are used to this kind of leg-pulling.
"I'm happy I could smack down their Judas chants by winning the tie, that was some sweet revenge," Boe proudly states, patting himself on the back for this glorious "act of betrayal".
It will be back to work for this World Champion Indian squad after clicking a gazillion selfies that made Boe feel like his "face will fall off for one more selfie" and some raw fish-eating sojourns to remember the winning night.
Boe's thoughts are already racing ahead to the National camp in Hyderabad, where he hopes to make swift and steady improvements to assist Satwik-Chirag to become "just as excellent as the Minions, if not better" in the future.
"It won't be possible for them to play at this level if they don't have good practice partners. In that way, India right now has a good army of doubles players with Krishna Prasad, Vishnuvardhan Goud, MR Arjun, Dhruv Kapila, and even Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri there to give competition. This atmosphere of competition needs to be created to raise the bar. This is something which we did in Denmark, and it produced so many champions. I understand how it can be difficult given India's cultural conditioning, but I really want to implement this change during the National camp," said Boe, revealing his intentions.
We shouldn't forget India's Uber Cup squad, which was captained by two-time Olympic medalist PV Sindhu, as Boe points out "Although our win is overshadowing it, the Uber Cup team also deserves the accolades. It was crazy how they qualified for the quarters without Saina, Sikki, Ashwini, Gayatri, and other experienced players. It was impressive to see the young girls step up! Moreover, their presence during the Thomas Cup matches meant so much. Their cheering and support really motivated us, they are equally a part of this victory," Boe gratefully says.
But, for the time being, the Danish coach will only concentrate on digesting the immensity of what has occurred over the previous week and gulping it down quickly, so that such historical events might become more often in the future.