India Thomas Cup champs: Who would have thought? The Team

The vague whiff of a dream turned to reality as the week wore on, and India inched closer to the hitherto impossible – winning the ultimate team title in badminton, the Thomas Cup. A dozen players in Bangkok and their coaches there and in India though, believed throughout. It’s a little secret that they’ve known for a month now: Indian men were going to win the Thomas Cup. This was a date with destiny, meticulously envisioned and executed by India’s most underrated and talent oozing sportspersons – the men’s badminton players.

Kidambi Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy. They knew, they said as much, they hoped the country would believe, they did not mind if it did not. They were due their date with destiny – no matter what others reckoned.

On Sunday, India invited history for an elegant cup of tea, demolishing Thomas Cup royalty, Indonesia, 3-0 in the finals. Denying them their 15th, while winning their first ever. Against all expectations. The reason why India’s badminton fraternity read the tea leaves right was because it has closely watched and shepherded India’s bunch of excellently proficient singles players.

Lakshya Sen shrugged off a week of being pummelled by a host of top names, to rally from a set down to beat Anthony Ginting 7-21, 21-17, 21-16 on the back off a confidence in his defense that ballooned into attacking swagger in the kills.

Then India’s doubles team of Satwik-Chirag pulled out the most audacious win of the tie, beating the hallowed Md Ahsan – Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo 18-21, 23-21, 21-19. Guilty through this season of flubbing 20-18 leads, Satwik Chirag reversed the trend, winning from 4 match points away from defeat. This was patiently fought back, as big man Satwiksairaj brought on his big powergame, to support the week’s hopping Energizer bunny Chirag Shetty, who has believed more than anyone else.

Keeping their nerve, playing fearless badminton, backing their incredible talent, the young Indians gave India the 2-0 lead.

Nothing oozes more class than Kidambi Srikanth playing the match of his lifetime. This time he stamped his sheer class against Jonatan Christie, winning 21-15, 23-21. There were audacious reflex returns at the net. There was resistance from Jonatan Christie in the second. And then there was the signature Kidambi Srikanth shot, an NFT that’s priceless in trad currency or bitcoin: the setup smash and then the charging follow-up as he ran to the net for the matchpoint.

A smash, a crosscourt smash, a dipping, history demanding, dominating, crosscourt, jump smash from Srikanth as he leapt in the air and time stopped, brought India it’s unforgettable Thomas Cup triumph. Noone could stop jumping. No one could stop tears from flowing down.

India. Thomas Cup champs. Whod’ve thunk? The players & their coaches sure did.

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