Indian men’s badminton team created history when they upset 14-time champions and holders Indonesia 3-0 to clinch their first-ever Thomas Cup title in Bangkok on May 15.
The underdogs, who had not reached the last four stage of this prestigious tournament since 1979, had assured themselves of a medal by beating Malaysia on May 12 and then got the better of Denmark in the semifinals with both matches going to the wire.
“It’s a very proud moment for Indian badminton. We have had many individual triumphs but winning the Thomas Cup crown is very special. This shows the depth of talent we have among the men and full credit to the players and coaching staff for giving their ultimate best through this week and beating some of the biggest badminton powerhouses on their way to the title win,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, president of Badminton Association of India, said.
World no 23 HS Prannoy had justified the selectors’ decision to pick directly in the squad by winning both the deciding rubbers and remained undefeated, especially the second against Rasmus Gemke of Denmark despite hurting his ankle in the opening game.
He was declared fit to play the fifth rubber again in the final but the likes of Lakshya Sen, the men’s doubles combination of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and Kidambi Srikanth ensured that he could just put his foot up and enjoy the triumph.
Given Indonesia’s doubles prowess, it was important for Sen to give them a winning start and the world championships bronze medallist did just that as he fought from a game down to beat Anthony Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16 in an hour and five minutes.
The Olympic bronze medallist ran riots from a favourable side as he clinched 12 straight points on either side of the mid-game interval to draw first blood.
But Sen wasn’t the one to fold up without a fight and started to come on his own after changing ends. He was patient in his approach and forced Ginting to make errors while looking for quick points.
And India Open champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty saved four match points in the second game before defeating Mohammed Ahsan and Kevin Sukamaljo 18-21, 23-21, 21-19 to make it 2-0 in India’s favour.
The Indonesians had fielded a scratch combination against the Indians and it looked like their ploy was working as they raced to a 18-12 lead in the opening game. But the Indians managed to find their rhythm and clawback before the experienced combination drew first blood.
Nerves played their part in the decider as the lead changed hands a couple of times before the Indians clinched two quick points to take a 21-18 lead. Ahsan played out of his skin to save one but the Indians converted the second to set the stage for Srikanth to wrap up the final.
The former world no 1, who completed the tournament without losing a single match, then came to the party as he clinched the opening game rather easily and then saved two game points in the second before getting the better of Jonathan Christie 21-15, 23-21 as the team launched into a frenzied celebration.
President of India Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among hundred others have congratulated team India for winning the Thomas Cup.