The Indian Thomas Cup-winning team bagged the 2023 Sportstar Aces Popular Choice award for the National Team of the Year at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday.
The Indian badminton contingent ended a 70-year-long title drought by beating 14-time champion Indonesia 3-0 in the final to script a watershed moment in the history of the sport, probably as significant as India’s 1983 cricket World Cup triumph.
“Thank you Sportstar and The Hindu Group for recognising badminton and our achievement last year. Badminton had many individual brilliances in the past... But collectively, as a team, I would rate this Thomas Cup triumph as the best. We were comparing it with Kapil Dev and his team’s triumph in 1983,” badminton coach Vimal Kumar said.
“Thank you Sportstar and The Hindu for making this evening special for me and the whole team. I would say it is a big collective effort from all the team members and we can relate to it a lot with the 1983 World Cup,” Lakshya Sen added.
What made the Thomas Cup triumph even more remarkable is the fact that Indian badminton centered largely around the individual and never really prioritized team events. To build a sense of team spirit and bonding, HS Prannoy created a WhatsApp group — ‘It’s coming home’ — for the 10 players in the team. They met for team dinners and devised unique methods to build team spirit, such as imposing a fine on anyone who came late for team meetings and using that money after the quarterfinals to buy drums and airhorns to amplify the noise in the stadium.
The move clearly paid rich dividends.
World championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen defeated Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16 in the first men’s singles to give India a 1-0 lead.
In the first doubles game, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty saved four match points before beating Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo 18-21, 23-21, 21-19 to extend India’s lead to 2-0. World championships silver medallist Srikanth edged Jonatan Christie 21-15, 23-21 in straight games in the second men’s singles match as India bagged its maiden title and became the sixth different nation to win the coveted tournament.
India had previously reached the semifinals of the Thomas Cup in 1952, 1955 and 1979. En route to the title, India beat Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia - teams with a combined 20 Thomas Cup titles between them.
Former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, chess great Viswanathan Anand, former India football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and Olympians Anjali Bhagwat and Aparna Popat are the members of the Sportstar Aces 2023 jury.
The event is supported by IDFC First Bank, Indian Oil, India Cements, United India, Ramaiah University, Experimenta Science Center GD Naidu Charity, Finolex Pipes, LIC, BPCL, Samsonite, Big Basket, Nippon Paint, CRICHQ, Wordswork, NewsX and Casagrand.
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