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Indian badminton is on the rise and the sport has delivered so many successful moments over the last decade on the international stage and the potential of the upcoming players makes India a dangerous prospect for the near future.
After the success of Saina Nehwal, Kidami Srikanth, P.V. Sindhu, and HS Prannoy, the tri-colored flag nation has produced multiple doubles pairs in the last few years, who have brought multiple medals home.
Twinning On Court
Doubles in Badminton is a team game event and a format where a total of four players play in teams of two against each other. In this format, a significant role is played by the control, coordination, and tactics of the players in the same team.
In the contemporary era, there are three categories of Doubles – Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. While the court dimensions are similar to the Singles, the rules of the game are drastically different from those of Singles. It is a popular gaming format in team-based events such as The Thomas Cup and The Uber Cup.
It is a fast-paced and strategic game where a quick exchange of strategies and tactics needs to be done between the team members to win a point. In the dynamics of Doubles, one gets to observe different strategies between different pairs. Trust between the partners needs to exist along with a thorough understanding of their strengths and weaknesses to play well.
India amongst the other South-Asian countries has been a land of top-notch players when it comes to a sport like Badminton. They have established a strong footing for India in the international arena through their iconic wins and games, some of which are highlighted below.
Pioneers of badminton in India, Dipankar Bhattacharjee and U. Vimal Kumar were amongst the first Men’s pairs that entered the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and represented India. Despite their 6-15, 3-15 defeat against the Malaysian pair of Razif Sidek and Jalani Sidek, the duo was highly revered by the Indian audience.
Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy, the two-time gold-medalist pair are popular for their consecutive wins in the 2015 Mexico City Grand Prix Title and the 2016 Canada Open tournament. Attri and Reddy clinched the gold medal again by defeating the Thai counterparts Chaloempon Charoenkitamorn and Kittisak Namdash in straight sets of 21–15, 21–15 in the 2019 India International Tournament.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are the prodigy duo of the Men’s Doubles category in Indian badminton. After winning the gold medal in the mixed team event and the silver medal in the men’s doubles category at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Satwik and Chirag went on to bag the Gold medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the men’s doubles category.
2022 and 2023 have been a couple of eventful years for the duo as they first contributed to the Gold Medal win in the 2022 Thomas and Uber Cup followed by a bronze medal in the 2022 World Championships. The crowning moment arrived when Rankireddy and Shetty became the first Indian pair to win a Gold Medal in Asian Games shocking every other opponent at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.
In the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa made history by winning the first gold medal for an Indian in the event.
The duo became a household name after winning the bronze medal in the 2011 BWF World Championships. In the 2015 Canada Open, Gutta and Ponnappa won the gold medal against the Dutch top seeds Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek in straight sets of 21-19, 21-16.
Valiyaveetil Diju and Gutta made history when they defeated world champions Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir from Indonesia at the 2009 Korea Open Super Series.
One of the greatest wins and turning points in their careers was when they won the 2008 Bitburger Open badminton championship in Germany marking India’s first Grand Prix win in the mixed doubles category. Later, the duo became the first Indian pair to participate in the mixed doubles category in the Olympic games.
Dance Of Doubles
The doubles game in badminton is not a simple play of attack and defense but rather more strategic in nature. It demands a high level of coordination and communication within the teams. Identifying the weak areas of the opponent team and targeting which is critical for winning the game.
The techniques and skills used within the subcategories of doubles are more or less similar but contextual to each sub-category, such as mixed doubles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles.
When compared to Singles, Doubles is a fast-paced game and requires an advanced level of footwork and mind control training. Apart from trust, stamina, coordination, and strategy, the game requires one to focus on the following tactical points:
- Service and return of the service are critical in doubles to get a good start. Usually in doubles the ‘wide and short’ service box is used and the back gallery is considered to be outside the eligible area for serve, the maximum number of shuttlers use the low serve technique while playing
- The server can occasionally choose to flick their service, creating uncertainty and an element of surprise in the game for their counterparts. On the return side, the shuttler usually stands alert and intends to place the return shot far from the server.
- Doubles is a game of ‘who can win the rally’ rather than ‘who can smash and kill it’. The idea here is not to just win a point but to exhaust the opponent with a long and strategic rally.
- The best defensive tactic in doubles is to stand level with each other so that each team member covers half of the court but many teams prefer playing in the front and back method or the mix of the two defensive techniques.
- Players can also choose to be in a cross-court playing position to attack better as the aim in doubles is to force the opponent into giving a weak return shot or a high lift. Therefore a series of attacks in a rally is a useful idea.
- The use of smashes becomes interesting in doubles as one of the proven effective methods of smashing is by attacking the body of the opponent team member as opposed to the singles strategy where the aim is to smash on the sidelines (away from the opponent).
- ‘Formation’ plays a more important role than footwork in Doubles matches and that’s where coordination kicks in while playing in pairs.
Syncing for Success
With more success buffering, Indian badminton is set to reach newer heights in the near future and sports enthusiasts across the country are waiting for many more gold medals for the power duos in the Indian badminton scene.
The duo of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand achieved their peak in 2022 when they bagged the bronze medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games apart from achieving a career-high rank of 34 at the All England Championships in the same year.
Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy form a strong pair when it comes to the Women’s doubles category. The two-time runner-up team won the bronze medals in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and would look to give India a huge boost at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Dhruv Kapila and M.R. Arjun first rose to prominence after they finished runners-up at the Nepal International and Bangladesh International in 2019. The duo’s partnership came after a wait of three long years, but their doubles strategy is considered to be the next best in the country after Satwik and Chirag.
During the 2022 Tokyo BWF World Championships, the duo defeated the eighth-seed Danish counterparts Kevin Astrup and Anders Rasmussen with Dhruv smashing from the back and Arjun handling the net.