Thomas Cup: Team dinners, Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy bonding, and putting team before themselves

Team Indias beat Denmark 3-2 in the Thomas Cup in Bangkok . Denmark won the tournament in 2016 and India were the dark horses .

It was just a jumbled brawl, but when Hans Kristian Vittinghus, a Danish singles veteran, cackled to Kidambi Srikanth on Instagram, it was unmistakable.It was fun to watch you leave Lakshya at home commenting on Team Indias landing picture in Bangkok for the Thomas Cup.The Indian mens team dressed in identical team uniforms at the airport, although without Sen, was upbeat on a mission, as Srikanth said.The friendly snipe from the Danish No.4 singles player was about whiffs of past conflict in the Indian team, where the shuttlers training in Hyderabad didnt get along with the Bangalore bunch, and Sen had even missed out after the last trials after being hospitalized.

Srikanth took it downward and steeply, retaliating with a grinning emoji: he reached before everyone.The news of Indias squad, who were united well before the team event and with the No.2 piping up for the No.1 spearhead, was not exactly a shock to those who followed.Thats not good news for the rest of us.Vittinghuus continued in a lighter vein after his country lost 3-2 to India in the semis and said that his connection had improved.

The Danes are tall, well-built, and noisy on court, but they are also a little adamant about their pedigree in badminton.They tend to think too much of themselves on occasion, and even the commentary defy all-knowing arrogance.It was good to see India defeat them, national coach Pullela Gopichand will say later.Vimal Kumar, who was with the squad, will attest to the plop of good fortune that saw Danes win over China while reminding his players to be completely critical of their rivals' rankings.

But more bruising memories from the Thomas Cup made this weeks dreamy run into the finals all the more a fairytale.I started playing the Thomas Cup in 1981 as a top junior and then went to China, where we were slaughtered 9-0 in the older format of reverse singles and doubles over two days, as the tournament had a very good team on its return to international competition.After that, we never had much depth.Our Singles were good enough to win in 2018, but we didn't have doubles and fell to France!

Vimal claims that that was the greatest difference in 2018.HS Prannoy recalls the grim 2018 France match with a shiver of all memories, which are unheard in Thailand.In the group stages, we went out to France.He remembers that it was also my lowest point in the Thomas Cup.

Two months ago, I started having these small conversations with Lakshya and Srikanth separately, and told them that we should take this opportunity seriously now that we are all in good shape.Perhaps, much more experienced teams had competed before us in the Thomas Cup, but India did not do well either due to injury or not being competitive.This time, we discussed giving our best.We needed it badly, he says.

When he says, the man can incite goosebumps even with a racquet in hand: We wanted to compete in a tournament not for ranking points, not for individual glory, where there is no cash prize but only for the region.That feeling is enough to motivate you.This wasn't just a spiel about continuing to dream and pretending to be up there, but followed up with victories.Prannoy believes that losing 3-2 to Chinese Taipei was one of India's best things ever to happen.

He recalls that we made decisions that were right for the team and prevented any confusion.According to Vimal, we gave priority to international performances because you need to have experience defeating higher-ranked players in the Thomas Cup.Since coach Agus left Hyderabad on October 20, the program had been modified, focusing on greater intensity and better quality in rehearsal sessions.The singles and doubles teams in Hyderabad were competing side by side on 5 courts, three for singles and two for doubles.

There are no players and no coaches.Even in Hyderabad, team dinners had begun, and Prannoy became the pointman to work with Lakshya.On arrival in Thailand, the team was under a mini-shock when they learned that Lakshya Sen had developed a bit of food poisoning after biteing at the airport and being pretty sick for a day, and that after the Germany match, the rest of the squad was providing cover and allowing him to fully recover.Vimal recalls the fiasco and the eerie recollection of What if (if he didn't recover).

*** After Prannoy beat Rasmus Gemke on Friday night, he got an unexpected bearhug from Kidambi Srikanth, who had defeated Anders Antonsen, winning 2 of 3 singles.Bro, I'm way too happy today, he said.Prannoy said it was emotional and a good team effort that was apparent.Prannoy believes that the 5th rubber was the most important, but that subsequent matches were equally as important.

According to him, a player like him gives the rest of the squad a massive boost of confidence when he celebrates with a fist pump.Both players climbed to dizzying heights in terms of scalps and titles in 2017, and they fell together shortly thereafter.Srikanth is a very private guy and does not speak about his challenges.I think we've spoken more in the last four days than in the last six months, however!We told each other after Malaysia that we just can't lose to Denmark.Prannoy says that we both want this to happen for the region in which the two former rivals have reconnected.

The biggest challenge was against Malaysia, because a loss would mean we wouldn't even win a medal.But even after the small slip against Gemke, it was a completely mental game, and I found the zone, he says.Coach Siyadatullah recalls watching Prannoy splayed after a slide on the forecourt.As coaches, we have to be chilly, we cant be brave enough to express our trepidation, as I felt when my son fell.

According to the mentor, he was an exceptional performer.Rasmus Gemke, afraid of having to use the knife in his own life, made one of his worst mistakes of his life: he opted to hustle and harry Prannoy and overtly doubled his attacking pace, losing accuracy in the end.Gemke played everything to Prannoys hand in his ultaa scheme, and our boy was valiant in defense, he recalls.Gemkes' face remained a shadow until long after the reversed tactic was implemented.Srikanth did need some tempering against Antonsen on the night, as the coach could be heard saying in Telugu: mella mellagadi, quickuh aadu.

Antonsen had begun reading Srikanth at the net and was threatening to counter by encouraging him to play fast.Srikanth has lost a lot of matches in the past after not decelerating and making mistakes, despite being a man on the speed blitz.Not on Friday.He ran at a slower pace and waited for the patient to return.

Srikanth was exemplary on the night, he says, because he cleverly slowed down and exploded when he noticed a weak shuttle.Although Vimal has seen a big difference in Srikanth taking the initiative to counsel Lakshya and others on pre-match preps and how to empty the stomach, Siyadath said that Srikanth acts his way.He doesn't speak a lot, but he is specific in instructions, he says of the avowed MS Dhoni fan, who has a not too distinct personality and a really solid feel for the game.He isn't a fan of laws.

He hates being called up before a match and follows his own calm pace, according to him, of behaviours similar to those of Kapil Dev and Tendulkar in cricket.***Satwik prefers his laidback pace, though Chirag Shetty has his own set of routines.But they both know each other so well now, and Vimal believes that something must be done, adding that India's all-important doubles pairing covers up well for each other.Satwik can be error prone, and Chirag can clam up when closing out their first round match against the yelping Danes, but they stayed calm in the draw.Mathias Boe, the Danish doubles coach, has honed in the rigor.

Boe can scare the daylights out of the Indian paired players by yelling at them.He screams as if they are not on time on court.It's simple, says Indian coach Arun Vishnu.But it's more respect for his hours on the court than fear for Satwik-Chirag.He is a typical European who communicates better than Asians.

Prannoy has had heart attacks the last two days, according to the duo.I thought this was not going well when they fell from 20-18 in the second round, according to Prannoy.They come through each time.Srikanth is saved from the thrills of warm-up mode.

But yes, it is good for my heart.Im with Srikanth, Siyadath jokes.***This is a Thomas Cup team that is open about each other and their own individual shortcomings, and is content to shield the other from criticism.When the whole family tries to fit into one lunch or dinner together in Hyderabad, meals have seen a follow-up.

Coach Vijaydeep Singh has spotted Namdharis in Bangkok who have been feeding them one nutritious roti subji meal, and at other times, making a simple daal rice lunch if someone is lined up for a 2 pm match, and decided they'd land in uniforms, not casuals with noise-cancelling headphones.For an event with no prize money, it was made a conscious decision to form a team.Prannoy maintains that you will have goosebumps.You cant buy those.