HYDERABAD : Whenever Indian shuttlers perform well in prestigious meets, a press conference is held at the cradle of the sport in the country — the Pullela Gopichand Academy — on their return. Scribes make a beeline to interview the celebrated men’s and women’s singles players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth. Tuesday was a little different. The way things unfolded at the latest conference after India’s best ever show at the Commonwealth Games, it would be safe to say that the doubles players are inching towards same ‘stardom’.
The young men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (17) and Chirag Shetty (20) generated a similar traction generally reserved for the singles superstars. And it was quite understandable, given the fact that they had walked into history books by becoming the first Indian male pair to clinch a medal at the quadrennial tournament. They settled for a silver medal by reaching the final before going down 13-21, 16-21 against Rio Olympics bronze medal-winning pair of Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge.
Just before leaving for Gold Coast, Satwiksairaj had told Express that he was confident about medalling. Interestingly, the duo had based their preparations on the new service rule, oblivious to the fact that it would not be in place at CWG. Shetty says it took some time for him to get back to serving properly under the old rule. “We prepared for more than two weeks, thinking the new rule will be enforced there. It took some time for me to readjust to the old rule,” Shetty said.
The truth was unveiled just a day before they were supposed to play their first match. Satwiksairaj, on the contrary, was relieved. “I was happy to know that the old rule will be in place. The reason is simple; under the new rule you have to serve from a much lower position,” he said. “Under the old rule, you can lean forward and serve easily.”National doubles coach Tan Kim Her had brought the boys together around two years ago at the academy. “We had played against each other. He had said that we are both tall, and that could make us a good pair,” Shetty recalled.
Soon after the historic outing of Indian contingent (its best ever show with six medals), Gopichand had emphasised that the Team gold was the highlight for him, as he praised the doubles shuttlers for their contribution to the cause. Reiterating their coach, all the singles players in the contingent showered praises on Satwiksairaj and Ashwini Ponnappa for winning the mixed doubles tie, which eased the pressure off Srikanth.
“I want to thank Ashwini and Satwik for making it easier for me,” said the new World No 1 Srikanth, who grabbed a silver in men’s singles.The pair has been making a mark since last year, when they reached quarterfinals of two Superseries events, causing several upsets, and then entered the semis of Indonesia Masters this year. Has India finally found doubles specialists that can inculcate similar interest in fans that the singles players do? Only time will tell. The signs are positive, though.