The Thomas Cup men’s team badminton is familiar territory for Uday Pawar. He partnered Prakash Padukone at the Thomas Cup 1979 competition in Jakarta (Indonesia), where India reached the quarterfinals. He hoped the current doubles pair of Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy would pull their weight at the Thomas Cup 2022, aware of the value of doubles boost to the singles specialists in the squad in a team event.
India’s first-ever gold in Thomas Cup history was accomplished with a timely boost from the Shetty-Reddy doubles duo winning their tie against mighty Indonesia, setting the tone for a 3-0 win (singles wins by Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth) sealing India’s hold on the title at Bangkok. Shetty is a trainee at the Uday Pawar academy in a suburban club, Goregaon SC, from junior ranks before moving to the national camp as senior India probable.
Reddy got discreet tips from coach Pawar about the pitfalls to avoid against specific rivals at the world level. The former Thomas Cupper organised a 10-day preparatory camp at his academy, under the auspices of TOPS scheme by the Sports Ministry, where Mathias Boe, Olympic doubles medallist from Denmark and contracted as India’s coach for doubles, worked with Shetty, Reddy before leaving for the 2022 team event.
Tracking the Bangkok competition on live television, he spoke about the reasons for India’s best doubles pair performing on cue against big nations (like Malaysia and Denmark), the value of Denmark ace Boe’s presence and the impact of India as a men’s team champion, in an exclusive chat with News18. Former doubles partner, Prakash Padukone, also gives his insight (see box):
Self-belief is a major quality in Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Reddy, first noticed at Tokyo 2020 (quarterfinals on Olympic debut) and here. What do you attribute this to, individually and as a doubles pair?
Fearless on-court differentiate these tall players from the others. Aggressive on court, both thrive on learning new things and getting better. Fate sometimes plays a role in getting talented players from different cities (Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively) together. They both have mutual respect and trust in each other. Chirag and Satwik are different persons, with different likes and dislikes, but once on court they instinctively act as one, supporting each other when things are tough on/off-court and generally being good friends.
Mathias Boe, the foreign coach for doubles, was present in Bangkok during the Thomas Cup. Did he make a difference and why?
Chirag-Satwik had lost quite a few very close matches recently, they needed an experienced player court side during games to guide them, keep them calm and to motivate them. Mathias Boe, playing at our academy for five-six years and knows Chirag well. The two have teamed up in doubles at the Premier Badminton League (Pune 7 Acers squad). I have no hesitation in saying that the Indians playing so consistently now is due to Boe’s presence courtside during matches and practice.
The doubles pair played a huge role in the 3-0 final win (over Indonesia). Did you see it coming, the way Chirag-Satwik fared in the quarterfinals, semifinals?
We were in with a chance in all the five matches (against Indonesia). After a good start by Lakshya, in form at the right time, followed by the electrifying doubles win, the Indonesians looked shell-shocked. The momentum was with India. In the case of the doubles show, the camp under Boe really helped their confidence. They stayed calm and positive even in tight situations. Their best is yet to come, we won’t have to wait for long. Both players are down-to-earth, disciplined and hungry for more.
Chirag Shetty blossomed under your eyes, from the academy days. Talent merged with temperament takes time to develop. He appears to have got it right faster than expected….
He has always been a fighter from very young days. In his first U-13 Nationals, he was pitted against a much taller, stronger and older player in singles, but the manner in which Chirag fought right till the end, made his mother (who had accompanied him) comment that she liked the way he fought hard till the end. He still has that aggressive attitude, now is able to control it, stay calm in stressful situations and keep mind alert so that he can take advantage of the match situation.
Foreign coach of quality, contracted at the right time, has produced results for India in the recent past. P V Sindhu bronze at Tokyo 2020, working with Park Tae-Sang (from South Korea) for example. The Dane tuning up Chirag-Satwik is another. Your thoughts…
Foreign coaches who are experienced have made a lot of difference in the performances of our players. The Badminton Association of India, Sports Authority of India, Sports Ministry have to be complemented for whole-hearted support.
Watching the Thomas Cup 2022 may have taken your mind back to the Thomas Cup playing days. Thoughts if any…
Winning the world team title– the Thomas Cup– has changed the country’s fortunes, which won it in the past. I have no doubt that India will produce more world-beaters and more often now. Past players have been producing a number of talented players. The federation needs to recognise our contribution also.
Prakash Padukone Rates Doubles Duo as Most Valuable
World badminton’s living legend, Prakash Padukone, believes that we have truly arrived at the world stage. He attributes the Thomas Cup 2022 title to a brilliant team effort on the whole. A statement from him states: “While each player contributed to the success, the most valuable players were our first doubles pair of Satwiksairaj and Chirag Shetty, who made a big difference to the team’s balance by winning the first doubles, earlier our weak link.”
Padukone, co-founder of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and former world number one singles player, adds: “Their victories over Malaysia, Denmark, Indonesia helped to lessen the burden on our singles players. This is not to take away glory from our singles players, since all delivered when it mattered most. For the first time, every player performed to potential which is largely responsible for this superb victory.”
Laskhya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy shone for India in singles. The doubles pair of Chirag-Satwik helped the team claw back to draw level in the quarters, semis and build on the first singles win in the final, Team India scripted history.