But the last few years have seen a gradual shift with the men reclaiming lost ground. After Prakash Padukone‘s memorable All England triumph, it took 21 years for another Indian – Pullela Gopichand – to emulate him. And now after a 16-year gap, the likes of Srikanth, Sai Praneeth and Lakshya Sen are winning big tournaments.
Indian badminton owes a lot of its success to Gopichand’s coaching. He won the Olympic bronze with Saina in 2012 and Olympic silver with Sindhu in 2016. With him as her coach, Sindhu also won the World Championships in 2019.
In 2014, after Sindhu won her second bronze at the Worlds, Gopichand had said that in four years, Indian men can taste similar success. He was right on the money, as Srikanth won four Super Series titles in 2017 and became world No. 1 in April 2018. Praneeth ended the 36-year drought when he claimed bronze at the World Championships in 2019. Padukone had won it in 1983.
“Achieving success in men’s badminton is quite tough as the field is very strong. But we are working, our time will come,” Gopichand had said in 2014. More than Sindhu, he expected medal from Srikanth in Rio Olympics. “He was perfect, did not commit even a minor mistake but was unlucky in the quarterfinals,” Gopi had said then.
In Pics: India stun Indonesia to win maiden Thomas Cup title
<p>India’s men’s badminton team pulled off a major upset by crushing 14-time champions Indonesia 3-0 in the final on Sunday to win their maiden Thomas Cup title. (PTI Photo)</p>
However, Srikanth was laid low by injuries after 2017 and lost confidence. The last 12 months saw him working with his old team, perhaps a reason for his success in the last six months. While Prannoy was brilliant in patches, he too suffered several injuries. The success of Lakshya was icing on the cake for the Indian team.
Much of the credit for Lakshya’s success goes to Vimal Kumar and Padukone. Winning the Thomas Cup is mission accomplished for Gopichand. The men have scaled a peak, which even the famed Indian women failed to.
“It’s a phenomenal success. What our boys achieved is simply incredible. It was my dream. I am confident that we can build on this success,” Gopichand said.
Kidambi Srikanth rated this victory as one of the best in his career while HS Prannoy said how the players have gone crazy after the victory and had slept wearing medals around their necks.