Indian men’s badminton adds to PV Sindhu-Saina Nehwal success story | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Indian men’s badminton adds to PV Sindhu-Saina Nehwal success story

Indian male badminton players are rising at world level courtesy three supremely talented 24-year-olds. Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy, all coached by national chief coach Pullela Gopichand, are making headlines on a daily basis

other sports Updated: Jul 01, 2017 16:52 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sai Praneeth (from left), Kidambi Srikanth, Pullela Gopichand and HS prannoy have taken Indian badminton to another level.
Sai Praneeth (from left), Kidambi Srikanth, Pullela Gopichand and HS prannoy have taken Indian badminton to another level. (AP)

Unlike most other sports in India, headlines in badminton are dominated by women players. Such has been their pre-eminence that Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu are household names.

According to reports, 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal is one of India’s richest sportspersons, even surpassing many in men’s cricket while Sindhu’s stock has zoomed post her Rio Olympics silver medal.

Read | Kidambi Srikanth climbs up three spots to re-enter top-10 of badminton rankings

However, 2017 is turning out to be different. Indian male badminton players are rising at world level courtesy three supremely talented 24-year-olds. Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy, all coached by national chief coach Pullela Gopichand, are making headlines on a daily basis.

Dominating sport

Of the six Superseries tournaments (the game’s elite events) held so far this year, three have been won by Indians. This is unprecedented.

Srikanth has proved the biggest newsmaker. The lanky shuttler from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, has just completed a run of three Superseries finals in a row, winning the last two, the Indonesian and Australian Opens. Down with injury after the Rio Olympics, Srikanth is now in top form, having beaten Korean world No 1 Son Wan-ho twice in a fortnight and overcome Chinese Olympic and world champion, Chen Long in the Sydney final.

Read | Kidambi Srikanth credits Pullela Gopichand for all recent success of Indian badminton

He has become a celebrity in India with felicitations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh since returning home.

Cutting-edge coaching

Sai Praneeth too has had an exceptional year. He reached the Syed Modi International final in January before triumphs at the Thailand Open and Singapore Open, where he won his maiden Superseries crown. Though Prannoy has not won a title this year, he has consistently defeated the world’s best.

It underlines the fact that the trio can deliver at the highest stage, vindicates the coaching methods of Gopichand and answers those who were wondering whether the former All England champion can replicate his success with Saina and Sindhu with the men as well.

Read | HS Prannoy’s Indonesia Open run ends with loss to Kazumasa Sakai in semis

The trio has showed it is second to none in fitness, shot production, tactics and mental strength. A great example was Prannoy defeating Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long in back-to-back matches in Indonesia.

Indonesian expertise

So what changed suddenly?

“I think the addition of the Indonesian coach has made the difference in the way we train. Earlier it used to be just Gopi sir but now we have two people working and thinking on how to improve our standards,” Srikanth told HT.

Srikanth was referring to Mulyo Handoyo, coach of former World and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat. “Our fitness levels have improved, which is showing in our results. We are not just winning matches, but tournaments too,” Sai Praneeth told HT.

“Our practice sessions have become longer. Mulyo changed our schedule when he came in. So, now instead of practicing for 90 minutes at a stretch, we do for three hours. This has increased our stamina. We have learnt some new shots and our exercise pattern has also changed a bit.”

The coaching unit has worked on mental toughness, on how not to lose nerve in pressure situations. “Mulyo has the knowledge of how to produce top class players and is also very strict. I was always physically sound but have become mentally much tougher now,” Prannoy told HT.

The changes brought in by chief national coach Gopichand and Mulyo are delivering results, and Indian badminton seems to be in good hands.

The world championships in Glasgow from August 21-27, will provide more answers.