Chirag-Satwik pairing has been the real difference for India in Thomas Cup: Kidambi Srikanth

Chirag-Satwik pair created the margin of victory in Thomas Cup – Srikkanth

Image Credit source: PTI

For the first time in 73 years, India won the Thomas Cup, Kidambi Srikanth told that what was the most important link in defeating the 14-time winner Indonesia?

Meha Bharadwaj Alter.

It is being seen as a bigger victory than the Indian cricket team’s World Cup victory over two-time champion West Indies by Clive Lloyd at Lord’s in 1983. Earlier this week, the Indian men’s badminton team created history by winning the coveted Thomas Cup in Bangkok for the first time in 73 years by defeating 14-time winners Indonesia. Former world No. 1 and Indian team captain Kidambi Srikanth won all his six matches of the tournament and defeated Indonesia 3-0 in the final to help India win the Thomas Cup for the first time.

Srikanth, who led the Indian team to phenomenal success with fellow senior shuttlers HS Prannoy and the No. 8 doubles pairing of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, defeated France’s Brice Leverdez in the Thailand Open Super 500 badminton tournament 18-21, 21-10, 21- Spoke to TV 9 Sports soon after defeating him.

TV9’s EXCLUSIVE conversation with Kidambi Srikanth

– Congratulations on such a beautiful moment. Does it still feel like a dream?

Surely it is like a dream. We all keep talking about what happens if someone comes and wakes us up and finds out that we were all dreaming. We all had such strange thoughts (laughs). But yes, we feel very happy to be the champions of Thomas Cup. Only five countries have won this tournament so far. We have defeated the legendary team of world badminton in the final.

When did you all start mentally preparing yourself as a team?

As far as I remember, we had a WhatsApp group called ‘It’s Coming Home’… When some of our team members were in Philippines for the Badminton Asia Championships, HS Prannoy created this group and added everyone to it. Since then we thought that we have to think positive, focus and believe that we can do it.

We knew that every player in the team has the ability to perform well and win their respective matches, but it was very important for us to perform well as a team as well. In fact, individual performance in team events doesn’t matter as much as everyone performing very well as a team. We all wanted to support each other, play really well and fight to win together till the end.

After the victory, there is also talk of team bonding of your people. Everyone in the team rejoiced at each other’s success. How did all this become possible?

The biggest thing is that there was no conflict of ego between anyone during the game. Prannoy and I were seniors in the team and everyone else is young. We wanted to maintain this bonding. There was no talk of seniors and juniors between us. The aim was just that we play together and win. We knew that all the five matches were important and one player playing well was not going to win. We had to do well as a team. So we asked each other to be like a team. We learned to trust each other.

When we were playing the match with Christie, the score in the second set was 18-18 but later we won 23-21. After winning the match, we realized how we were feeling when we scored 18-18. (Smiling) Nothing really was going through my mind at that time when players are really thinking about what they should do to win the next point when they score 18-18. I just thought about the next issue at that time and thus helped me ignore the surrounding things. Due to this, thoughts stopped coming in my mind about which rank I am in, which rank I am playing and what could be the result. My whole focus was on how to win the next few points. That’s all.

But how nervous were you at that time? I mean last week must have been incredible for you. You did not lose a single match and beat other players like Christie, Anders Antonsen, who are not considered easy to beat. And that too in tournaments like Thomas Cup.

When I found out that I was going to challenge Christie in the final, I wanted to play really well. The last time I went into a match against him in Korea a few weeks ago, I was defeated. Throughout the tournament, my focus was just on playing well and getting points for the team. Everyone was supporting me, cheering me and all this also inspired me to do better.

– We are seeing a new Kidambi Srikanth so who do you give credit for? We saw you play in the World Championships and now here… it’s as if someone has pushed a button. Are you calmer than ever? What is the difference between then and now?

I don’t think I have suddenly done anything different before the World Championships. This is the hard work that I have been doing for a long time. It is a process. I have been training very hard in the last year and a half after recovering from injury. Then due to Kovid many tournaments were canceled and the Olympics were also postponed. There were a lot of uncertainties, despite that I continued my training. I think this victory is the result of that.

– Chirag and Satwik winning a double match… This is a complete change from the days of Pullela Gopichand and Prakash Padukone playing both singles and doubles events where so many players are seen together in Indian badminton. Would it make you feel very special to be a part of this growth of Indian badminton?

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There is no doubt about it. I have been playing in team events for the last eight or nine years and this is by far the best team I have been a part of. We have always had good singles players, but this time the difference was Satwik-Chirag pairing and the other doubles pairing. The kind of play that Satwik and Chirag showed in the crucial matches, despite being down 0-1, was really outstanding. Lakshya Sen lost his quarter-final and semi-final matches but Satwik and Chirag made up for it by winning their matches. It was a very stressful moment… I don’t know if anyone felt it from outside or not but when you are playing a knockout match and the team is down 0-1, there is a lot of pressure on you when you get on the court. The way these two played their three matches, it is less to be praised. He definitely deserves a lot of credit for this win. We all know how good Indonesian doubles players are, so beating Indonesia in the final is a big achievement in itself. Since I have been a part of many team events, the difference in the team for me comes from the presence of Chirag and Satwik.