"Lakshya Sen is aware of his responsibility" — Father-cum-coach optimistic about medal at Thomas Cup
A lot of onus will be on World No. 9 Lakshya Sen to lead India's charge at the Thomas Cup and get their first medal. His father and coach, DK Sen, relayed the team's mindset ahead of the World Team C'Ships.
A glaring medal-less appearance is what the Thomas Cup is an immediate reminder of whenever the mind tries to graph India's performance at the biennial Badminton World Team Championships, where India's last-best performance came 43 years back when the team reached the semi-finals in 1979.
Come the 32nd edition scheduled to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 8th May, the opportunity to change this narrative and bring this medal drought to an end has never been better.
Travelling with the team to the Thai capital, Lakshya Sen's father and coach, DK Sen found a window to chat with The Bridge, ahead of the Indian badminton squad's campaign at the Thomas Cup.
"Everyone is pumped up here," he is quick to convey.
"The draw is very good this time for us and the team is also very balanced, we are quite strong," the coach at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore, where Lakshya also trains, mentioned.
Placed in Group C, India has been handed a very kind draw for the Thomas Cup with Germany, Canada and Chinese Taipei on their half. Out of these three teams, only Chinese Taipei will be a cause of concern with World No. 4 Chou Tien-Chen and doubles World No. 3 pair of Lee Yang / Wang Chi-lin, who are the Tokyo gold medallists too.
That apart, India shouldn't be having too much trouble to make their way to the quarter-finals, a feat they achieved in the 2020 edition held last year in Denmark, as well.
"The team is hungry to win and they have had ample rest after the Badminton Asia Championships last month and are raring to go," Sen conveyed from Thailand.
Lakshya Sen looks to bounce back
For the World No. 9 Lakshya Sen, the Thomas Cup will be another opportunity to showcase how essential he is to the team, given his stellar run since the beginning of the year.
With a India Open crown in his bag and a silver medal each from the German Open and the All England Open from 2022 so far, Lakshya will also be eager to prove his worth to the team.
"Last year when Lakshya didn't get selected for the Thomas Cup squad, he was very upset. But he realized what he needs to do and get better and that's what he did. Training with Viktor Axelsen in Dubai last year (in September) also helped him and he gained some major confidence which is why you saw his form spike," Lakshya's father recalled, indicating Sen's bronze win at the World Championships.
"He got a lot of self-confidence in himself after those wins and realized he too, can do it! That's what pushed him," DK Sen explained.
After Lakshya's brilliant streak during the European leg of the BWF calendar, Sen had a few early exits at the Korea Open and the Badminton Asia Championships. While he exited in the second round in Korea, at the BAC, Lakshya was upset in the first round itself by China's Li Shi Feng.
"For the Thomas Cup, Lakshya knows the responsibility he has as the top-ranked player of the squad. Overall, the team is very positive in attitude and the medal chances are also very good this time," Sen relayed.
"First off, they need to unite in this spirit and play the ties accordingly. With debutants like Priyanshu (Rajawat) also in the team, and the doubles pairs also looking solid, a medal is very likely," he stressed.
Asian Games postponement a boon for shuttlers?
Amidst the excitement of the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022, one another news that has dawned is the postponement of the Asian Games that was to take place in Hangzhou, China in September.
While this is a major blow to certain track and field athletes, the postponement of the Games has invited a series of mixed reactions from players and coaches alike.
"Yes, the badminton schedule is very hectic right now. We have the Commonwealth Games, then we would have had the World Championships and then the Asian Games. This year we have an extra lot of events, it's crazy," DK Sen mentioned, taking stock of the calendar.
"But now that it has been postponed, it means the players can rest and recover better for the World Championships instead, it's a slight relief only," senior Sen conveyed.
"That said, players bank on these matches and tournaments to show their skills, no? They also feel good about the positive results and medals and it brings them more recognition," he reasoned.
"For now, we haven't really discussed the postponement. The focus in the camp is very much on the Thomas Cup. They are excited to go out and play there," he revealed, clearly focussed on the matter-at-hand, which is to go for a medal and a slice of history at the World Team Championships event.
The Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022 are slated to begin on 8th May and will continue till 15th May 2022.
India will take on Germany first in the Thomas Cup, while the women's team will take on Canada in the Uber Cup.