The month of October has been an annus mirabilis for Indian sports. The FIFA U-17 World Cup was a box-office hit, the cricket team continued to be a byword for a battering ram, the men’s hockey team won the Asia Cup for the first time in a decade and their women counterparts qualified for the World Cup.
But the one runaway leader has been Kidambi Srikanth, the 24-year-old who continues to compose haiku on a badminton court. The Chinese calendar says 2017 is the ‘Year of the Rooster’. Their shuttle players might as well start calling it the ‘Year of Kidambi’. Numbers have the infuriating ability to hide more than expose but the following set reveals all. Four Superseries crowns this year (fourth man to achieve this honour), five finals and back-to-back titles twice (first after Lee Chong Wei to achieve this).
All this has been chronicled, but it still has to be mentioned to paint a picture of the zone the Indian has been inhabiting this year—a place very few badminton players have ever seen. Sure, the Guntur man has miles to go before he can be clubbed alongside Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu. But his successes prove there is enough know-how in the Indian coaching system to help men’s players also reach their full potential.
Srikanth made his first mark on the world stage three years ago when he beat Lin Dan in the China Open final. Injuries and loss of form meant he fell off the radar a bit. A new-found love for fitness catapulted him back into public consciousness.
After the defeat at the World Championships in Glasgow, where he tried ‘everything but nothing worked’, he went back to the drawing board. He has come back a new man. Interpreting a purple patch is risky but Srikanth is now dining with the Gods—Chen Long, Chong Wei and Dan. Given that he is significantly younger, he is in prime position to join that exalted company.