HS Prannoy: India’s Unsung Hero Turned Overnight Sensation

If you ask any sports fan in the country,” which Indian player has been the most consistent in defeating some of the best players in the world in the last one year and is bringing laurels to the country,” the answer HS Prannoy should not surprise you.

Prannoy really hit the imagination and conscience of the country, when on live TV, playing the Thomas cup semifinals against a strong and highly motivated team from Denmark, playing with a sprained ankle and obviously in pain when he stepped on the injured foot, he played the match of his life to carve out a memorable victory over Rasmussen Gemke to catapult India into the finals of the Thomas Cup.

He played a very controlled and articulate game to deny the Danes a chance to lift the cup. In all my years as a National coach and TV commentator, I cannot recall a match like that, where an injured player playing in a top-class competition has played with such concentration, poise, intelligence and control.

As an astounding nation watched the victory unfold, glued. the TV screen, Prannoy became a national hero overnight. Every Indian became his fan including a beaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first talked to the Indian team in Bangkok where the Thomas cup was being played with a special mention of Prannoy. The PM also threw a dinner for the Indian team and had a long conversation with Prannoy.

But Prannoy who had a career-high world rank of, 8 in 2018 has been the unsung hero of Indian Badminton for Long. He has lived in the shadow of Parupalli Kashyap first and then of Kidambi Shrikant. Even a 20-year-old Lakshya Sen got more mileage in the media with his chutzpah and some good victories earlier this year as he reached the finals of the All England and the German open. But lurking in the shadows did not stop Prannoy from carving out some outstanding performances.

In 2015 at the India super series he defeated world no 2 Jan Jorgensen in three Games.

2016 saw him winning the Swiss Grad Prix where he was defeated in the finals by top seed Marc Zwiebler of Germany.

In 2018 he stunned the then world’s no 1 ranked Korean Son Won Ho at the Asian Championships.

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Furthermore, just before the start of his senior career, he showed enough talent to get a silver medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. The same year he also got a bronze at the World Junior championships.

But why am I giving all these statistics about Prannoy? Well, I have a serious reason for this. A few days back when he was again giving an outstanding performance at the Singapore open championships, I had sent a message requesting to give me a letter endorsing my name for a national award which I strongly think I deserve.

But it will strengthen my claim if another national awardee endorses your application.

But his answer stunned me when he replied that he would love to help me, but can’t. Why I asked, now very curious. He said, “Sir I have not received any national award in my long career.” I was speechless, to say the least.
This is indeed a national Shame. Here is a shuttler who has defeated, from 2015 to 2018, the world’s no 1 and 2 in Son Won Ho and Jorgensen. He has defeated reigning Olympic champion Chen Long, and Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei.

He has won the Swiss Open Grand Prix gold defeating a much higher ranked Marc Zwiebler of Germany. Not only this, but as a junior he got a Silver medal in Youth Olympics and a bronze medal in the world junior championships.

And while the rest of the world smelt the dust at the balletic feet of world and Olympic champion Viktor Axelson, our man Prannoy defeated this almost invincible Danish giant in the Indonesian masters 2021. And he reached the rank of 8 in the world.

I will come back to the list of the biggest names he has defeated a bit later, but just his performance in 2015 should have gotten him at least the Arjuna award. But his showcase is bare. No Arjuna. The authorities have simply not done justice to this great player who has done yeoman service to Indian badminton since 2010. This lacuna must be addressed forthwith.

Before I end this article allow me to bring the list of world-class players he has defeated. According to Wikipedia Prannoy had beaten Lee Chong Wei twice, current world champion Loh Kean twice, Chou Tien Chen thrice, Jan Jorgensen four times, Viktor Axelson once, Anders Antonsen twice, Son Won Ho twice, Taufiqe Hidayat once and lastly the living legend from China Lin Dan thrice. The only top player he had not been able to best is Kento Mamota of japan to whom Prannoy has lost 8 continuous times.

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