India’s victory in the men’s badminton team championship for the Thomas Cup is a seminal moment for Indian sport. This win over reputed Indonesia, with an Indian team entering the final for the first time in the 73-year history of the championship, is definitive vindication that Indian sportsmen, given proper scientific training in academies and sustained exposure to international competition, can become world beaters.
Indian badminton history is full of fine individuals emerging to be world beaters in Nandu Natekar, Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand and many others. On the distaff side, players like Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu, burst on the scene to perform creditably for years and won medals in prestigious competitions like the Olympics.
What is unusual in the Thomas Cup triumph is that India now boasts of quality players among the top echelons of the sport in Laskhya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth, besides a reputed doubles pair in Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj RamkiReddy. The conjunction of such contemporaneous talent led to this sweeping 3-0 performance in the final on top of sustained competitive zeal in beating Malaysia and Denmark along the way.
The victory is akin to Kapil Dev’s team winning the 1983 Prudential World Cup to turn the cricket world upside down in achieving what seemed then like an impossible dream. The 2007 triumph of MS Dhoni’s team in the T20 worlds was another similar moment that was not only ground breaking but also opened a flood tide of sponsorships and untold riches for the performers.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021, was also significant for the first ever track & field gold Neeraj Chopra won in javelin. What the sum total of these victories means is Indian sportsmen, working in dedicated fashion to a more universal regime in training, including under foreign coaches, are beginning to achieve world class results, beginning with Abhinav Bindra in the 2008 Olympics in shooting.
The trend of sporting achievements in individual and team events beyond the willow game in our cricket-crazed nation should lead to near cricket-like funding for competitions like professional leagues.
Many of them already exist in different disciplines but they need sustaining at far higher levels of rewards besides taking live all sporting action to a billion-plus TV audience to not only appreciate but also inspire the young to take to sport and a more active lifestyle.