Heading into the tournament, nobody gave India a chance of lifting the Thomas Cup as the odds were stacked against the country that had hitherto not won the prestigious event.
But, somewhere down the line during the crunch time of the tournament, the players had the belief that they could do the unthinkable. Bring the gold to India.
As evidenced from the text communication group involving the team members that made the nation proud, aptly titled ‘It’s coming home’, the thrillers against Malaysia and Denmark proved to be a shot in the arm for the team that has set its eye on the prize.
After the historic win, the media is flooded with congratulatory messages and wishes celebrating the badminton heroes that did the country proud on the global stage in Thailand. A look at what was going on in the camp during the campaign shed light on how the team defied all odds to lay hands on the coveted trophy.
In an interview following the glorious victory, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Kidambi Srikanth and coach Pullela Gopichand shared their thoughts and experiences that have enriched their lives over the past week.
Chirag Shetty said, “We did tell everyone back in Hyderabad that we would come back with the medal. And I knew for a fact that if we push ourselves and we are there for each other, even if we have lost our games, we would cool down, come back and cheer at the top of our voices for our teammates.”
“After when Satwik and I lost the Chinese Taipei match, I was dejected, but the moment we came out we were back in the dugout cheering on Srikanth bhai as he was playing right after us. And I completely forgot about my loss and we were there to support him.”
“That is what this team is all about. Being there for each other.”, asserted Shetty.
“That is what we were really good at. On paper we might not have been the strongest team, but, we were there for each other and that is what stood out for us.”
Satwiksairaj, Shetty’s doubles partner couldn’t control his joy when Srikanth was playing his game as he burst out into a spontaneous jig holding the tri-colour as they watched the captain notch up a victory.
“There was a lot of dancing in the dug-out when Srikanth bhai was playing. I knew he would pull it off. He is a specialised finisher.”
“I was calling out ‘Dhoni…Dhoni…Dhoni’ as he was in action and he finished off in style.”
“The first time I called him Dhoni, he got a point and everyone looked at me. I called out again and he got four continuous points. He was leading 11-7. And of course, he likes Dhoni.”, said an elated Satwik.
The team’s skipper Kidambi Srikanth who anchored the team during testing times was all praise for coach Pullela Gopichand when asked about the factors that had contributed to the unparalleled success including the rise in popularity of the sport in the nation and the helping hand extended by the government and the private sectors.
“Gopi sir has been supportive of me for the last 13 years and nobody can take that away. And the support from the government, SAI, TOPS has been crucial.”
“Also Li-ning and Bank of Baroda have also been exceptionally supportive during the COVID time. I want to thank everyone for being there.”
“Special thanks to Gopi sir who will always be there in all my interviews. That’s a standard. A lot of credit goes to him for sure.”
“I would like to thank the government and the national federation.”
Srikanth, who can boast of having cheated death as he came back from a coma a couple of years ago, has now achieved multiple accolades in a tale of awe-inspiring grit.
“I’m just taking it as it comes. Not thinking about it too much. For me, it is about living day by day.”
On a lighter note, coach Gopichand spoke about how sentiments are a part of the sport and how each person has their own unique way of dealing with crunch situations.
“I don’t know how many people are breaking coconuts (a form of prayer in Indian customs) in temples in this part of the country. I’m sure some in my family definitely are.”
“We have a lot of pilgrimages to take for all of us as this is something historic and all the blessing and support are important.”
“This victory is very very special. To win an individual tournament is one side of the story, but, to collectively come together and pull off something such as this is amazing.”
“The names of our players will be remembered by Indonesians, Malaysians and the Danish for years to come. And this will be spoken for a long time.”, concluded Gopipchand with the beaming smile of a coach absolutely proud of the efforts of his proteges.