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Badminton has been India’s savior at major sporting events like the Olympics, the Asian Games, and the Commonwealth Games in the last decade with many medals coming home courtesy of great performances on the court.
Indian shuttlers experienced a drought of medals and success at the international level in the 1990s and 2000s as Chinese shuttlers slowly and steadily laid the benchmark for international badminton, with several Danish shuttlers also acing the court of play.
The recent success has propelled badminton to be covered more by the mainstream media, leading to the young shuttlers getting better infrastructure and better quality coaching since a young age, which could help India win many more medals in the near future.
The Shuttle’s Journey
The origin of badminton has always been a topic of debate among historians and researchers. According to a few old and acclaimed researchers, it’s stated that the sport was established in Ancient Greece and Egypt.
On the other hand, British people are also seen as the pioneers of Badminton. Taking about its instigation in the sub-continent, the sport of badminton was introduced in India during the colonial rule by British military officers, who used to play the game for enjoyment.
In the 1860s, British officers used to play badminton in India, and they used to call the sport ‘Poona’ or ‘Poonah’ because they used to play the game in Pune, Maharashtra.
Badminton was first introduced in the Olympics as a demonstration sport in the 1972 Munich Games. After sixteen years, the sport made its comeback in the sporting megafest as an exhibition sport in the 1988 Busan Olympics.
Consequently, in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, badminton finally became a full-medal Olympic sport with four events: Men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s doubles, while the mixed doubles event was introduced at the 1996 Atalanta Olympics.
Courts of Conquests
Prakash Padukone is seen as the pioneer of Indian badminton. In 1978, Padukone won India’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the men’s singles event. In 1980, he became the first Indian shuttler to win the All England Open Badminton Championships.
In addition to that, Padukone was also the first shuttler from the sub-continent to become the No.1 ranked player in the world. He also won a gold medal in the 1981 World Cup and a bronze medal in the 1983 World Badminton Championships.
After Padukone retired, Pullela Gopichand became India’s top shuttler. He won the All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001. After carving his name as a top shuttler in the books of history, Gopichand later became one of the most cherished Indian coaches.
Syed Modi was another important name in the 1980s in Indian badminton as he dominated the National Championships winning all the editions from 1980 to 1987.
At the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, Syed clinched the Gold Medal followed by a bronze medal at the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games. Under his leadership, the Indian men’s team won the bronze medal at the 1982 CWG and the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.
Dipankar Bhattacharjee and U Vimal Kumar represented India in the 1992 Olympics in the men’s category while Madhumita Bisht was India’s sole women representative at the event.
Saina Nehwal won India’s first Olympic medal in the women’s badminton events at the 2012 London Olympics. She also became the first Indian female shuttler who was ranked no. 1 in the world in 2015. However, her time on top was always affected by injuries.
Nevertheless, with the arrival of PV Sindhu, India started regaining its respect as a top badminton nation. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she narrowly missed out on the gold medal following a defeat against Spain’s Carolina Marin in the final.
In 2019, Sindhu became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the BWF World Championships and followed it up with a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first Indian woman to win two Olympic medals.
On the other hand, Kidambi Srikanth has also been a top figure in men’s badminton for the sub-continent. He also became the first male Indian badminton player to win a BWF Super Series title in 2014. However, his quest for an Olympic medal is still unfulfilled. Srikanth was also a part of the historic Thomas Cup-winning Indian badminton team in 2022.
The Thomas Cup is one of the most celebrated championships in badminton. In 2022, the Indian team also carved their name in the tournament in golden letters. The young Indian team, which was led by a few seasoned veterans, defeated Indonesia (3-0) to win their first-ever Thomas Cup title in Thailand.
Mastering the Moves
Just like any other sport, Badminton also offers a lot of technicalities and strategy analysis. Hence, to master the game, one should be familiar with all the different skill sets available. There are broadly five techniques in badminton.
- Forehand & Backhand Grips: In any racquet sport, grip plays an extremely important role. In the forehand grip, the shuttler holds the racket in a handshake with the rest of his fingers wrapped around the racket. While in the backhand grip, thumbs take control by being placed in the forward and the fingers work as support.
- Footwork: Clean footwork is extremely important in badminton as a single wrong step can become the reason for one’s defeat. From abrupt transitions to powerful backhands, agile footwork can help a player ace the game confidently.
- Long Footsteps: After learning footwork, the importance of long steps and other movements becomes evident. Long steps are usually used to approach the shuttlecock in less time and to cover the badminton court with ease.
- Jumping Skills: Likewise any other sport, badminton also requires peak athleticism. Jump helps a shuttler generate power on shots and increase the court reach which is pivotal in singles matches.
- Vision and Judgement: For success, a clear vision is mandatory. However, when it comes to badminton, judgment also plays a major role. It comes into play when a shuttler decides whether he’s going to take the shot or not. A shutter has to make the decision of leaving or playing the shot in a matter of a second.
Rallying the Future
After the silent period of the 1990s and 2000s, Indian badminton is once again reaching new peaks every day, with shuttlers winning medals in various categories in the last few years.
The men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty knows no boundaries. The pair has been breaking records and setting new milestones in the world of badminton.
They became the first Indian pair to win a gold medal in the Asian Games at the 2022 Hangzhou edition after they defeated the South Korean pair of Choi Sol-gyu and Kim Won-ho in the final. Satwiksairaj and Chirag are also the only Indian pair to reach the World No. 1 ranking.
Lakshya Sen is another top prospect in Indian badminton. The 22-year-old won a Gold medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games after he defeated Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong. Moreover, he was also a part of the silver medal-winning Men’s team at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.
Currently, PV Sindhu is the top female shuttler in India. However, the likes of Aakarshi Kashyap, Treesa Jolly, and Gayatri Gopichand are slowly gaining momentum in the global scene.
It’s fair to say that the future of India in Badminton is in safe hands. China Masters is already underway and the final will take place on November 26 and will be followed by the Syed Modi India International set to begin on November 28 in Lucknow. The last tournament of the BWF calendar will be the World Tour finals set to take place in Hangzhou between December 13 and December 17.