'Let the fire burn forever'

India’s Thomas Cup winners have lit the spark and now it’s for the officials to not just bask in the glory of the win but to make that spark into a roaring fire.

The Indian men’s badminton team winning the Thomas Cup has quite rightly sent the badminton fraternity and its millions of fans into delirious joy. This must rank as one of the greatest wins in team competition in the history of Indian sport. Technically, of course, there were singles matches played, but, on the back of the shirts, instead of the name of the individual player, the name of the country was displayed. Many, including me, compared this win with the Indian cricket team’s World Cup win in 1983. Reflecting on the performance, it can be said that this win cancompare more with the Indian cricket team’s win in the ICC World Cup in 2011.

READ: Srikanth: If badminton gains from Thomas Cup as cricket did from 1983 win, that would be special

In 1983 nobody, apart from the captain and the team, believed that they could win. Even here, not every member was confident that we could go all the way, at least, at the start of the tournament. The win against the then seemingly unbeatable West Indies team in Berbice, Guyana, a few weeks before the World Cup kindled a ray of hope which got brighter after beating the defending champs in the first match of the 1983 World Cup. Still, when it came to the final, the odds were stacked heavily against us, but with terrific seam bowling and great captaincy we went on to win the Cup.

Twenty eight years later, in April 2011, when the captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit the six that clinched the match and brought the Cup back home it was not as much of a surprise as the win in 1983 was. There were so many classy players in the 2011 team and the winning expectations were quite high.

This Thomas Cup win, too, comes more in the 2011 (cricket World Cup) category for that reason. There are so many incredibly talented Indianplayers today who are doing so well on the international circuit for the last few years that everybody who follows badminton was hopeful and knew that with a bit of luck India could go all the way.

Just as the 1983 World Cup win ushered in a new, brighter, era in Indian cricket so also it is hoped that this Thomas Cup win will do the same to Indian badminton and take it to stratospheric heights. To see badminton courts at clubs and gymkhanas packed with youngsters is truly a wonderful sight and it adds to the belief that the bar set by this Thomas Cup win will be surpassed by the coming generation of players.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has provided some terrific talent to Indian cricket with players coming through from the remotest corners of the country. If the Pro Badminton League can do something similar, then sky is the limit for Indian badminton. For any sport to be really successful it needs to be a good career option for the players. While cricket was able to generate jobs in public institutions and corporate companies for most of those who played at a good level, it is the IPL that has made the game a greatcareer option. That is the reason you find players not just from the metros where corporate competitions were regularly played with massive publicity at least in the local media, but also from cities where such competitions may not be present.

ALSO READ: Before Thomas Cup magic, 10 Indians became one in Prannoy's WhatsApp group 'It's coming home'  

Today, as soon as parents find a spark in their children — and even if they don’t — they still encourage them to play the game because it can give them a future. The shout to come back home and studyand stop playing galli, garden or maidan cricket is not heard as regularly as it used to be before that 1983win, and especially after the advent of the IPL.

That’s why today there are many cricketers from the so-called Tier 2 and 3 cities plying their trade in the IPL and going on to become household names, thanks to the fabulous TV coverage and that too in different languages.

If badminton can do that and show that it’s not just the top players who can earn rewards but also those playing at a slightly lower level, then parents, too, will encourage their children to take up the sport. India’s Thomas Cup winners have lit the spark and now it’s for the officials to not just bask in the glory of the win but to make that spark into a roaring fire that will continue to glow brightly forever, so that such wins become the norm rather than an occasional surprise.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :