Indian badminton's rise and fall

Badminton is back in the spotlight after reaching Thomas Cup final . Pullela Gopichand has been credited with revival of the sport .

The popularity stakes of the Thomas Cup have increased.HYDERABAD (New York City): Many around the world have reacted angrily to India's spectacular feat of making it to the Thomas Cup final.Although Indian fans are commemorating this historic moment, serious followers of the sport will only grasp the magnitude of this triumph.Winning individual titles is a completely different experience, but winning well in group events such as the Thomas Cup shows the depth of the Indian squad.It also shows us how far the sport has come as compared to 15 years ago when it had no fan base.

Even after Gopichands' victory at the All England Championships in 2001, things didn't change much, but once he took over as India's chief coach, things continued to improve, not only in terms of players' performances, but also in terms of popularity of the sport.Gopichand deserves a lot of credit for this revival.Gopi cites three major incidents and personalities as the reason why shuttle sport has changed the country's fortunes.The tennis stadium was packed to capacity when Sania Mirza claimed the WTA Hyderabad Open singles title in 2004.

Every year since then, Hyderabad hosted an international badminton tournament and the World Championships in 2009.Gopichand said that his (LVs) foresight helped us to increase the sport's success.Sainas quarterfinal appearance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was the second incident.Saina was immediately noticed by people and followed her every move.

Saina continued to dominate one tournament after the other.NRIs followed her wherever she went.Indonesia is one of Sainas most popular hunting grounds.According to reports, even taxi drivers recognize her and some even refuse to take the ride from her.

Indians took gold in other categories as well.Sindhu took over the World Championships the very next year, winning silver medals year after year.When Badminton's popularity reached its zenith in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, she won the singles silver.Sindhu took the gold at the end of the Games, and it was amazing to see that no other Indian had won a gold medal in Rio before that.

The entire nation watched Sindhus final against Carolina Marin, and when she landed in Delhi proudly displaying the silver medal, she was swarmed by supporters at the airport and the hotel.Millions of people around the world watched the 20-kilometer victory procession in Hyderabad with admiration.Kidambi Srikanth contributed to the popularization of the sport by winning four Super Series titles, something no Indian has achieved.Even if it was for just one week, Srikanth and Saina were among the top players in the world.

As thousands of academies sprung up all around the country, the success of these shuttlers, all from Gopichands academy, changed the face of the sport.The emergence of Lakshya Sen has heightened the game's glitz.The youngster who trains at the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru received the same level of support as Saina and Sindhu during his All England final.That someone like Unnati Hooda, a 14-year-old with no formal education from a reputed academy, took the Odisha Open International competition shows that there is a lot of talent in the region.

For such a deep country, India would be impossible to beat even if you have 10, says Gopichand.Gopichand and veteran organizer Punnaiah Choudhary worked tirelessly to secure sponsors for the tournaments, in addition to being the chief coach.Sponsorship was a challenge at first.We knew so many people and everyone loved Gopichand, but only a few gave money.

Punnaiah said we were unable to gain funds for the activities we held between 2005-10.Gopichand used to spend many nights sleeping in order to get everything in place for tournaments with his partner Srikanth.However, Sainas' gold medal in the Commonwealth Games changed the game.The decision by then BAI president Akhilesh Das Guptas to relocate these tournaments from Hyderabad to Delhi also contributed to the sport.

But now, dozens of Indians are enrolled in the main draw of several international tournaments every year, and the entries for domestic tournaments total over 3000!Indians have made it a regular part of the tournament from the first few weeks of qualifying, and they even have a dedicated fan base, particularly in Switzerland, Birmingham, Malaysia, and Indonesia.When an Indian wins a title, social media is buzzing.Anand Mahindra, Rajnikanth, Amitabh Bachchan, and many other movie stars send congratulatory notes.

Age group shuttlers now have it easy to imagine they can make a career out of sports, and the confidence levels have increased as the Premier Badminton League has added to it as international players are included in the squads.The prize money for domestic tournaments has been increased, and badminton has never been so popular in the region.