CHENNAI: Every now and then, a sportsperson has one of those years that people run out of superlatives to describe, that career-making year when you go from being unbeatable on your day to the fringes of greatness.
Kidambi Srikanth had one of those in 2017. He won four BWF Superseries events in a year, reached a career-high No 2 ranking in November (an injury has since forced him to No 3) and became the highest earning shuttler of the past 12 months. Remember Lee Chong Wei? The multiple- Olympic medal winning Malaysian widely regarded as one of the greatest to have ever taken up the game? Srikanth won nearly three times the money he did in 2017.
Despite ascending to the throne of India’s greatest ever male shuttler, sponsors are still not flocking at his doorstep, curious given present-day India’s tendency to celebrate everyone’s five minutes of fame. There are no soft drinks or l u x u r y w at ch brands adorning his gear when he steps out into the ring. Indeed, the biggest logo on his shirt still remains his long-time sponsor Bank of Baroda.
A lot of that has to do with his rather bland storyline that can be summed up in a few short words — boy who was good at playing badminton conquered the world. It is not for nothing that a PR firm tasked with selling him to potential sponsors reportedly hit upon a strategy to brand him ‘The Rahul Dravid of Indian badminton’.