CHENNAI: In any sport, when a top player or team compete against opponents of the same level, both sides know what to expect. For even the tiniest of mistakes can prove costly. If the same team or player is pitted against slightly lower-ranked opposition, the end result can be unpredictable. From time to time, stories of minnows upsetting the top order also pop up. It is a situation that HS Prannoy can relate to, right now.
A few weeks back, at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, the 25-year-old lost to Rajiv Ouseph in the bronze medal playoff. Ouseph is ranked World No 21 — 11 places below Prannoy. Last Sunday, at the Asian Badminton Championship, the same Prannoy beat World No 2 Son Wan Ho in the quarterfinal before eventually settling for bronze. Ask him why and the man hailing from Thiruvananthapuram attributes it to lack of self-belief. I think everyone has issues and problems in their game. I feel I play better against the higher-ranked players.
Against the lower-ranked ones, I just don't trust myself. I feel that they have nothing to lose. Sometimes, when young and unseeded players return the shuttle, I panic. But against a player like Son, it is expected, Prannoy told Express. And it is also about the game style. I always go back after games and analyse other players. So, I know how an established player will go about during a major tournament. A not-so-established player, on the other hand, can be more unorthodox. They are willing to take a risk which makes them more tricky, he added. But during the CWG, Prannoy revealed that he was not fully fit. On the day that I left for CWG, I twisted my ankle.
That's why I did not play in the team events. If you had noticed, I never played in the main haul, he said. It has been a mixed start to 2018 for Prannoy. He had a fine run in the Premier Badminton League before injuring himself. He participated in the India Open in Delhi despite not recovering fully and exited in the first round. Then again during the All-England Championship, he exceeded all expectations when he reached the quarterfinal.
But that was followed by the Gold Coast disappointment. It is only May and while most of the athletes in the country are already focusing on the Asian Games, the badminton stars cannot afford to do that. Before the showdown in Jakarta, there are plenty of tournaments for them including a World Championships towards the end of July. But it is not the schedule or the impact it can have on his body that Prannoy is worried about. I believe that I am at a level where I feel I can play tournaments back-to-back.
Two years ago, I myself went and told Gopi sir that I am not ready for a challenge like World Championships. It's all down to the mental side for me in the end and I think I have evolved over the years. There are important tournaments in Malaysia and Indonesia and the Thomas & Uber Cup. I am just going to work hard and the results will follow, he concluded.