Thomas Cup the greatest victory of all time - Vimal Kumar

“I can’t explain the feeling, the joy,” Vimal says as he soaks in India’s maiden Thomas Cup triumph.

Asked to rate India’s Thomas Cup triumph, Vimal Kumar called it “the greatest.”   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

Vimal Kumar has seen it all in Indian badminton. As a player, he saw the golden years of Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi. He was a regular member of the Indian Thomas Cup team campaigns from 1981 to 1991 in his international career spanning 15 straight years. Later from 2000, he has regularly accompanied the Indian teams.

On Sunday, back in his hotel room, the ever young-looking Vimal appeared more happy than what words could describe after India’s history-making triumph in Thomas Cup.

Asked to rate this triumph, Vimal called it “the greatest” and elaborated. “We have had Prakash winning the All England (in 1980) and then P. Gopi Chand (in 2001). Saina Nehwal and K. Srikkanth became World No. 1 players, P. V. Sindhu won the World title (in 2019) but to win the biggest team title in the game is something very different. I can’t explain the feeling, the joy.”

Food poisoning

Vimal, a National selector who maintained that India had an outside chance of winning the title, hailed the playing members and also revealed that the team’s spearhead, Lakshya Sen, was laid low by a bout of food-poisoning before he left Bangalore. “He ate something at the Bangalore airport and was troubled throughout the journey to Bangkok. We rested him from one of the league matches and slowly he got better. Though Lakshya lost a few matches, he came good and won in the final. His victory was very important and provided the start India needed.”

He praised H. S. Prannoy for pulling off deciding rubbers against Malaysia (in the quarterfinals) and Denmark (in the semifinals) and explained his selection. “The selectors decided to go with Prannoy because he has some very impressive victories this season, including one over World No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelson in November. I am so happy Prannoy justified his selection.”

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Prannoy, on his part, said, “I am thankful to those who supported me. I have always performed well under pressure. I am proud of being this type of team. I have done justice to my selection.”

Chirag Shetty, who played his part brilliantly in the doubles match in the company of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, said, “We had this belief of doing well in the competition. We were there to contend because we felt we had the team to win. Now we are going out for dinner. Once we come back to the hotel room, we dance, like we do after every victory.”

World championship bronze-medallist Srikanth, whose unbeaten streak in six matches was the pillar on which India’s campaign rested, appeared to be playing close to his best of 2017 but the former World No. 1 chose not to compare his performances of the past with the latest Thomas Cup showing. “Today is a special day and we don’t get to play as a team much. To be in the Thomas Cup final and winning it is very special. And the feeling will take time to sink in.”

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