2014 proved to be an unsurprisingly good year for Indian Badminton. Amidst the few disappointments and controversies were some historic moments and performances that showed promise. K Srikanth’s explosive rise in the ranking – from 47th to 4th, P V Sindhu’s epoch-making bronze at the World Championships, and Kashyap’s long awaited gold at the Commonwealth Games were landmark achievements in a hectic and eventful year.
Srikanth had a fabulous 2014, winning the China Open and reaching the semi-finals of the World Superseries Finals in Dubai. The 21 year old is a cool customer and has shown nerves of steel while facing highly rated opponents, not letting them overwhelm him. His legerity and precision were on display when he beat 2-time Olympic Champion Lin Dan in the final of the China Open, surprising the badminton world. He has all the makings of a champion and 2015 could well be the year he reaches the top of the ladder.
India’s golden girl Saina Nehwal had her share of controversies, splitting with long term coach P Gopichand to train under Vimal Kumar, after a slow start to the season. She had disappointing outings at the CWG and the Asian Games and crashed out of the World Championships. The change, however, seemed to work. Saina clinched the China Open, adding to her Australian Open triumph earlier in the year. The World No.4 had an amazing run in the World Superseries Finals reaching the semis with a perfect record. Saina seems to have found her golden touch and with some work on her fitness, can re-create the form that makes the Chinese wall tremble.
P Kashyap had a mixed 2014. He showed promise when he won the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but seemed to have fizzled out as the season progressed. But the soldier in him fought on determinedly, reaching the quarter-finals of Superseries events consistently in the latter part of the year. A confident start to the year is all that the World No. 16 needs to make it his own.
Consecutive bronze medals at the World Championships is no mean feat. P V Sindhu topped that with a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, making it an unforgettable year for the 19 year old. She pulled off upset wins against Wang Shixian and Bae Yong, a huge boost in confidence for the rising star. But her inconsistency seems to let her down against lesser-fancied rivals. The lanky Hyderabadi though, has all the skills to make this year better than the last.
H S Prannoy announced his entry onto the international stage, finishing runner-up at the Vietnam Open and winning the Indonesian Open. He and Guru Saidutt , who clinched bronze at the Glasgow Games have long been in the shadows of their more acclaimed counterparts. On their day, they could pull off victories against seasoned players, surprising them with their agility and deception shots.
Indian Badminton seems to have found a new lease of life.There is a young generation of players-fearless, swift, high on confidence and inspiration- that shows hopes of an era of domination. With the seasoned pair of Jwala/Ashwini set to make a comeback and Olympic qualification at stake, a formidable rise in the quality of the badminton can be expected. Will this be the year that India takes the world by storm?