New Delhi: Indian shuttlers made history during the Commonwealth Games in April that gave the fans a belief that better things were in store. But a month after the gold rush in Gold Coast, the Indian team has plummeted to a new low after being knocked out from the Thomas & Uber Cup in Thailand. It was dismal display by the men’ team as they lost 0-5 to China and 1-4 to France, while women were no better after they were handed defeats by Canada 1-4 and Japan 0-5.
In the absence of stalwarts like Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu, and doubles stars Satwik Sairaj/Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponnappa/ Sikki Reddy, one would have expected the Indians to stumble anyway, but a performance like this has certainly not gone well with selector and coach Vimal Kumar. While the onus was on supremely talented youngsters to deliver, India badly missed the regular stars. While the fans are behind their shuttlers, coach Vimal has thinks that the youngsters could have done better in the men’s section, and that the women’s team need to bridge a long gap before they reach the level of Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. He raised questions over some of the players skipping Thomas & Uber Cup, and rightly so.
“To an extent I expected Indians to perform this way. I think Lakshya Sen should have beaten Toma Popov of France. He had good leads in the match and should have been victorious. In doubles, both the combinations did not play well. I was a bit disappointed overall by the doubles display as I thought that both the teams did not play to their potential. We missed our best two combinations for the country in Satwik/Chirag and Manu/Sumeeth. Of course, then against Australia it was an easy match and we won 4-1. I think with Srikanth and HS Prannoy in top 10, and Satwik/Chirag doing so well, India might have missed their first medal in Thomas Cup,” Vimal told News18 Sports in an exclusive chat.
He was even more critical of the women’s team and said, “In the women’s circuit of you see there is a big gap after Saina and Sindhu. It will take some time for our players to bridge that gap. Maybe none of the other players are of that level. That applies in women’s doubles as well, with Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy doing well together. After that we have a big gap that was visible in the Uber Cup. So now it’s time for the young girls to get better and get some exposure under their belt. We definitely need 2-3 years for them to come up.”
Every player had their own valid reason for not participating, but never has it hurt India’s chances so bad. While Sindhu had cited fitness issues for giving the prestigious tournament a miss, Sikki was down with a typhoid. A fully fit Srikanth skipped the tournament to concentrate on the other important tournaments, whereas Satwik had to appear for his class 12 exams.
“I think our players need to take more responsibility. We are extending every possible support in the form of facility, training and exposure, so the players cannot complain. They are getting better opportunities and are in the limelight now, so everything overall is really good. So the players need to deliver. They cannot side track or neglect Thomas & Uber Cup.
“Just consider this. In tennis, there is not much support from the government and the association and the players take care of everything on their own. So they are in a good position to decide whether to play Davis Cup or not. But we are in a different stage where we are truly taken care of, round the year. Everything is funded by the government or BAI. We cannot be only looking at our own rankings and points. When we have a decent chance of doing well in Thomas & Uber Cup, so we should have given some importance to this event,” a miffed Vimal added.
Earlier when the international calendar was announced, quite a few Indian players had expressed their concern over the tight schedule. The only way forward for them was pick and choose tournaments. But what surprises Vimal is that they chose to skip the prestigious tournament where all the best players from round the globe come to get a medal for their country.
“What does ‘too much pressure’ mean? You play it because it’s an important event. You look at other countries, the priority for them is these team events. All the best players from world over take part in these competitions. Maybe we took things for granted, that’s my only concern. Skipping tournaments like this doesn’t reflect very good of the sport.”
After the damage has been done, Vimal doesn’t want the country to go through an embarrassment like this again. He has called for some stern steps, and is going to recommend to the BAI to make it compulsory for the players to take part in these team events.
“I am definitely going to recommend to the BAI that playing in team tournaments be made compulsory. As long as you are fully funded by the association, then you have a responsibility towards the nation, which you must fulfill. My question is, will any of the players skip PBL? They will not as it’s an important tournament. But even Thomas & Uber Cup comes once in two years and we have to give a lot more respect to this event. I say all this because we have a decent team. And if you see all the top players are in their peak, so they could have delivered. We cannot let go these opportunities,” he concluded.