The Indian men's badminton team, which won the prestigious Thomas Cup on Sunday, operated collaboratively in pursuit of a common objective just like a team competing in a relay race, says U Vimal Kumar, the former chief national coach who has been part of the support staff for the team in Bangkok.
"Instead of batons, they passed on to each other an insatiable hunger for success. They were quiet and focused, waiting for their turn to take the racket and show up for themselves and their teammates to hit the goals they have set as a team. The exemplary team spirit shown by each member of the team took even their rivals by surprise," the 59-year-old Vimal, who reached Bengaluru from Bangkok the other day, told Manorama.
Excerpts from an interview:
Everybody is hailing the teamwork and unity displayed by the Indian team at the Thomas Cup. How could the team achieve that level of coordination and put in such a collective performance?
The team went to Bangkok without attending a training camp. All the members had done individual training before they converged at the Bangkok International Airport. However, they struck up a pleasant camaraderie instantly. Senior members like Kidambi Srikanth and H S Prannoy took the initiative to motivate the younger members and ensured they all are on the same track. They were selfless in their actions on and off the court. The way the players enjoyed and celebrated each other's success was very heartening.
Who was the outstanding performer for India at the tournament?
It was a complete team effort. They pushed each other to the hilt under pressure. However, the effort put in by the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty was unbelievable. We had three top singles players in our squad, but there were better teams when it came to doubles. Honestly, we were worried about our doubles team. However, they fought hard against powerhouses like Malaysia, Indonesia and Denmark and played a pivotal role in India's historic triumph. Remarkably, most of their wins came against higher-ranked opponents. They showed the world that India have good team not only in singles, but in doubles as well.
Were you disappointed with the losses suffered by young sensation Lakshya Sen in quarterfinals and semifinals?
Lakshya had suffered a bout of food poisoning just before the tournament. He could not train for three days after reaching Bangkok. Even his participation in the event was under doubt. However, he showed great determination and stepped at the right time for the team. In the quarterfinals and the semifinals, he was not able to match up to his true potential due to fatigue. In the final, he pulled off a stunning win against fifth-ranked Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia to give India a crucial 1-0 lead. It was a triumph against considerable odds by a 20-year-old player.
How do you rate Keralite M R Arjun's performance?
Arjun is one of the most exciting prospects in doubles. He has a natural instinct to attack which is his strength. He had made it to the national team a couple of years ago, but did not get many opportunities to play for the country due to the pandemic. He is only 25 and if he gets more exposure, he can be a great asset for the Indian team.