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30 Sep, 2021
There’s no other way of putting this, the Sudirman Cup 2021, has been a disappointing tournament for us. We had a fighting chance of qualifying from a relatively tough group and what fans are, rightfully, disappointed with is the lack of fight more than the lack of qualification. Alright, that’s granted.
But then the avalanche of criticism directed at all and sundry, seems to forget that suddenly we haven’t become a bad team or a bad badminton ecosystem. Just a couple of months ago, everyone was singing peans of our badminton pedigree with a third consecutive medal in three Olympics. And yet, two months on, on the back of one admittedly horror tournament – it looks like there is nothing good about Indian badminton anymore.
Sure, we live in a country where even Mahindra Singh Dhoni’s home was pelted with stones when results didn’t go the right way. So nothing should actually come as a surprise. But this scale of criticism, especially of the players has definitely taken me by surprise.
No player, of any pedigree pulls on the Indian shirt without pride and sacrifice. To question the commitment and intent of the players when they lose, is the obvious thing to do but do we realize that by doing so we are doing more harm than actually helping them. Which players steps onto the court to lose? Or without preparation? Or without the intent to fight for their country?
Sure, the results have gone the other way. Sure, some close games went in the wrong direction. But to question the likes of Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth, Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa for either their pedigree or their intent is just so wrong. These are storied Indian names who’ve performed out of their skins for years. By all means, they must expect to get the stick when they lose, but to question their commitment to the Indian cause? Isnt that a step too far?
Isnt this exactly the time the players need the badminton fraternity to actually come together and stay together? Some senior Indian badminton figures now raise question that are simply laced with selfish ambition rather than actual commitment to improve the badminton ecosystem in the country.
Instead of criticizing the players who did what they could do best, can we take a deeper look and think what would have happened had we seen the likes of Sindhu or Saina, Satwik/Chirag available for the tournament. Lack of preparation, injuries, and so many other reasons robbed us of the best talent available. The eighteen months long break, without any meaningful tournaments have left the players short on practice and sharpness. It just doesn’t come back overnight.
There are pulls & pressures of daily life, and resources for the players to worry about – sponsorships have dried up, governmental support is still insufficient, frozen rankings create confusion, lack of match/tournament practice has ended careers – and amidst all of this we have a second-string side, that fought and failed. Stars that failed to shine, performances that failed to sparkle.
Enough newsprint has been expended to say now it’s time to chuck the experience of some players and invest in the youth of others. Conveniently forgotten is the fact that just prior to the corona virus disruption these very players were world-beaters and consistently winning laurels for the nation. There is no doubt we need investment in youth, but it ought to be under the tutelage of the seniors rather than at their expense.
A wise man once said, “love me the most, when I deserve it the least – because that is when I need it the most…” now more than ever, our badminton – players, structure, and game needs our support and love. Every fan, every critic, every stakeholder – has the right to criticize, but do so with a constructive intent. We speak so passionately, because we love this game. Do remember, those who step on to the court – have put their lives into it. Years, if not decades.
To criticize and condemn, is now the most obvious thing to do. Support, and nurture, would be the more sensible one. In my limited and most humble opinion.