Having grabbed all the headlines recently, 24-year-old Kidambi Srikanth certainly needs no introduction. Coming out from the ranks of the famed Pullela Gopichand Academy, Srikanth is one of the those humblest players, who don’t really play for records and rankings, but is the one who wants to enjoy his game. The year 2017 has been a wonderful year for the Gunter-born shuttler, having already won the Indonesia Open and the Australian Open. Besides, in a total of 28 games he has contested in 2017, he has emerged victorious in 22 of them.
His exploits saw himself breaking into the top 10 rankings after he was ranked 8th in the recent rankings and what added further to his glory was the fact that he was honoured by PM Narendra Modi for his recent success.
It all started for the 24-year-old during the 2016 Olympics where he defeated the likes of Lino Muñoz and Henri Hurskainen before getting the better of the then World’s number 5 Jørgensen in straight games to book his place in the quarter-final against Lin Dan, against whom he created a major upset in the 2014 China Open Super Series.
We, at Sportswallah, were privileged enough to have a chat with the recently crowned Australian Open Champion Kidambi Srikanth, where he explained how important a role of coaches is in a sport like Badminton.
We first congratulated Srikanth on becoming the player in men’s category to win back to back Super Series titles and was asked how proud do you fee about it, to which he humbly replied:
“*Laughs* Thank you so much but it’s not something I’m really proud of.
“I’m not really playing for all these things, it’s just I really want to play tournaments, that’s it. And I’m just happy for becoming the first person or whatever, but the main thing I’d be happy about is winning the tournament.”
An unfortunate ankle injury, sustained last year, halted Srikanth’s further progress in the sport. But for Srikanth, it was never an obstacle. He came out strongly the following year and the rest, as they say, will go down in history. We asked him; is there anything special he did to recover from that threatening injury?
“I think it was the training I did after I was recovered from the injury. It was not anything special, it was just to be patient and not to push much and not to think too much about the rankings or winning the tournament. It was just to train and get back to my 100 percent fitness.”
Srikanth has been with Gopichand for a long time. We asked him as to what as been the influence of Mr Pullela Gopichand on his career.
“He’s been the man behind me. I cannot really think myself, you know, being here without him. It is all his hard work and guidance.”
He was further asked about India’s chances of winning the Gold in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and his mantra was simple, “I think it’s like play well, consistently well. And with that, we surely have a chance.”
The Indian duo of Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth have had some thrilling encounters in recent months. Upon asking whether he feels nervous or what goes through his mind while facing a national compatriot, he simply replied:
“I think it’s like, you know, we play each other every day throughout the year, so we know each other’s game really well, so it’s just about playing well on that event day, that’s it.”
Coaches in sports have dominated the news in recent times, and we asked Kidambi how important is the role of a coach in a sport like Badminton, to which he said, “Yes, it’s definitely important. You have to trust him, and that the first thing. We have breaks in between the games, every 11 points, and then coach comes in and gives his idea on what’s happening in the game and at that moment, you have to, you know, play what he says and you have to believe in him. And if you cannot really play what he says, it’s like you don’t believe in him.
“So I think you should believe in your coach and for me at least, I’d say Gopi sir’s inputs and hard work really helped me, so I think, from my point of view, yeah, coaches are very important.”
One nation that has dominated Badminton is China, hence, we asked Srikanth does he see India, as a nation, dominating the sport like their counterpart?
“I think we haven’t reached that level. We’re actually growing, but we still need time to say yeah we are dominating the world.”
Going a bit off the track, we asked Srikanth what inspired him to take Badminton, to which he replied:
“I loved playing badminton and that’s what made me take this sport.” Were your parents supportive? “Yeah, they did, yes. Without your parent’s support, you cannot really excel. And I’m really thankful to my parents for allowing to choose the sport I love, and then everything else happened.”
A traditional question was asked; had he had any ideas regarding ‘if not Badminton, then what’?
“No, I didn’t. because I started badminton at an early age, so I didn’t think of any other option besides badminton.”
Former World number 1, Lin Dan, after got beaten by Srikanth back in 2014, called the 24-year-old one of the most complete players of recent times. So we asked how proud does he feel about getting such a compliment from a player like Lin Dan.
“I was extremely happy after that match. So yeah, beating him in China in that final was a special feeling. And yes, definitely, getting a compliment from such a great player whom you actually believed as a legend of that sport. So it’s always great, it’s always special to hear these kinds of comments from them.”