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Experience pays off: Warhorses Srikanth and Prannoy etch history for India at Thomas Cup

So far unbeaten at the Thomas Cup, veterans Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy step up for Team India and display the edge of experience as the team cruised into the semi-finals after 43 years and confirmed a bronze medal.

HS Prannoy and Kidambi Srikanth played a key role in leading India to the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup 2022

HS Prannoy and Kidambi Srikanth played a key role in leading India to the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup 2022 (Source: Voot Select screengrab)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 12 May 2022 6:56 PM GMT

Move over mics, the Indian men's badminton team delivered the perfect racquet-drop moment in an edge-of-the-seat thrilling quarter-final clash against Malaysia at the Thomas Cup Finals 2022 being held at the Impact Arena, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Euphoric? Check. Surreal? You bet! Triumphant? Why, of course, and so much more emotions were quick to crowd as veteran HS Prannoy dug the final nail in Malaysia's coffin during the tense quarter-final clash and made history for India by steering the team into the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup for the first time in 43 years, winning 3-2.

Not so long ago, there were several questions doing the rounds when HS Prannoy was selected for the Thomas Cup team without meeting the criteria for selection - you had to be within the BWF Top 15 to be selected for the Indian squad without playing in the trials.

But the BAI chose to make an exception for Prannoy, the World No. 23 shuttler, given his dashing form of late and today, for once and all, he quelled all his critics by producing the tie-winning historic act that guaranteed India at least a bronze medal win from the biennial World Team Championships event.

Not just Prannoy though, India's campaign at the Thomas Cup 2022 has also been largely shouldered by yet another veteran and former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, who is enjoying a massively good streak currently, as he roped in a crucial win against Malaysia today too.

While a lot of pressure was heaped on the young Lakshya Sen, being the top-ranked men's singles player from India as he is at World No. 9 currently, it was ultimately the duo of HS Prannoy and Kidambi Srikanth who displayed sheer class and how they are men for all seasons as they scripted history today.

In fact, both Prannoy and Srikanth are yet to lose a single match in their outing at the Thomas Cup and have won all four encounters so far.

Trusted warhorses

Kidambi Srikanth at the Thomas Cup 2022 (Source: Twitter/ Sports18)

If the sweat beads had started to trickle after All England silver medallist Lakshya Sen lost another 'almost-about-to-win' match - his second in a row at the Thomas Cup, the dynamic doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were soon to arrive and get India into this tie.

Fair enough, Sen was up against tough opponents in both his matches against Chinese Taipei and Malaysia where he had to face Chou Tien Chen and Lee Zii Jia, respectively, but it was quite agonising to see Sen falter at the crucial points and end up losing game point opportunities.

If anything hurts, that will and if we are to understand from Sen's mentality, he will only bounce back stronger from these harsh losses and for our sake, we hope it's sooner than later because India still has to play the semi-finals now at the Thomas Cup and face Denmark there, where a Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen challenge awaits.

With Sen not being able to get India on the board, the onus automatically fell on the seasoned shuttlers - both in doubles and singles to do their part and get India across the line.

Truth be told, India's team composition at this Thomas Cup is ideal, packed with the right amount of experience and new talent (in the form of Priyanshu Rajawat and the doubles pairs of Vishnuvardhan Goud and Krishna Prasad and MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila) - the time was right to strike and the iron too was hot.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (left) celebrate their massive win at the Thomas Cup quarter-finals (Source: Voot Select screengrab)

With Satwik-Chirag pulling off a fashionable win in straight games, 21-19, 21-15, Kidambi Srikanth rode on that winning wave, amidst deafening cheers for Malaysia at the Impact Arena that was being countered with equally loud cries of 'Bharat Mata ki Jay!' shouts from the Indian camp.

Taking on the 21-year-old Ng Tze Yong, Kidambi displayed his greatness and had his way in 21-11, 21-17 to give India a much-needed 2-1 boost in the tie.

But if the nerves had started to ease ever-so-briefly during the second doubles featuring Krishna and Vishnu, it was soon time to worry as India lost that match despite stunning efforts from the rising Indian pair.

And then it all came down to HS Prannoy - he had to be the man to shoulder the expectations of an entire nation and carry India across the line, the pressure was immense, to say the least.

And of course, he delivered - punctuating every point, every angled smash, every winner and cross-court return and beautiful net shot with a massive fist pump and a quiet look of confidence in his eyes that told you - 'Trust me, I will get the job done.' And voila!

While the chills of that one-moment history was made will still remain, what the outing so far has showcased is the brilliance of Lakshya Sen, Priyanshu Rajawat and the budding doubles players, of course, but also the sheer grit and resilience of the veterans like Prannoy and Srikanth who still can step up and deliver and be the much-needed trusted warhorses.

Along with the glittering bronze confirmed and a semi-final place booked for the Thomas Cup, the one other thing that is shining bright is the future of Indian men's badminton and with Prannoy and Srikanth at the helm, we couldn't have asked for a better rite of passage before Lakshya Sen & Co. take over.

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