The Indian team's triumph in Thomas Cup in Bangkok, Thailand is an opportunity for the Badminton Association of India to capitalise on and take the sport to a higher level so that the country would not have to endure a long wait for the next title, says former India player Uday Pawar. Pawar, who was part of the team when India reached the Thomas Cup quarterfinals in 1979, and then qualified for the finals once again in 1988 as part of a team that included Prakash Padukone, Vimal Kumar, and Syed Modi among others, says this is the biggest achievement for Indian badminton and the country needs to capitalise on this to make badminton more popular and paying for the players. He says that the previous achievements by Indians were all individual triumphs like the All-England titles won by Prakash Padukone and Gopichand, the Olympic medals won by P.V Sindhu, and Saina Nehwal, and Sindhu's triumph World Championship.
"This is the biggest team title we have ever won because it may be known by some different name but Thomas Cup is the world championship for teams and therefore winning it is the biggest achievement for the Indian team. The federation, SAI, and Sports Ministry have played a big role in this victory" he said. The Indian men's team defeated Indonesia 3-0 in the final on Sunday to become only the sixth country to ever bag the Thomas Cup. India, who had defeated Malaysia and Denmark by identical 3-2 margins in the quarterfinals and semifinals, emerged victorious against Indonesia with Lakshya Sen, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, and Kidambi Srikanth winning their respective matches. "The federation should capitalise on it and take badminton to the next level. We have a lot of talent in the country but we need to groom them well and provide the necessary infrastructure and proper coaching at a young age so that we won't have to wait for another 70 years to win our second Thomas Cup title," Pawar told IANS in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Pawar, a doubles speciallist who paired with Prakash Padukone in team competitions, said BAI needs to set up national training centres all over the country and high-performance centres in all four zones north, south, east, and west to identify and groom talented players. "We have an abundance of talent what the federation needs to do is identify these players at a young age between 10-12 years and provide the best possible training. Players of that age do not like to shift to other zones for training. So if they have good facilities in their own region, they will be motivated to do well," said the renowned coach who runs his own academy in Mumbai and has produced many international players. Pawar lists two main reasons for India's title triumph in Thomas Cup all the players getting into good form at the same time and the attention showered on doubles players in the last few years. Doubles had proved India's Achilles heel in the previous campaigns. "I believe these are the two main reasons for the team's historic victory in Thomas Cup. All the players were in superb form at the same time.
For the last few years BAI, SAI and Sports Ministry have groomed the doubles players, the foreign expert Mathias Boe and the Korean coach who looks after the singles players have worked really hard with the players," said Pawar. He agreed that along with the slump in Chinese badminton, the huge improvement seen in other teams is the main reason for countries other than the superpowers doing well in badminton. "No doubt China is not producing the kind of players they used to. There have been changes in their regimented training, talent selection and result management efforts in the last few years and that's the reason their badminton has slipped a couple of notches. But other countries too have improved in the last decade or so," said Pawar. The Former India star signed off by saying that the effect of the Thomas Cup triumph on the future generation of players will be lost if we don't promote our heroes. "The BAI has to take these players under its wings, promote them as champions, and through them popularise the sport, otherwise we will not gain many benefits from this triumph," he said.