“A year back we never expected to qualify,” says Chirag Shetty after getting selected for Commonwealth Games
Exactly a year ago, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty hadn’t even played a Superseries tournament. There had never been any doubt about the immense talent that the two are endowed with, thanks to the titles they had rattled off one after the other at the International Challenge level.
But the elite circuit was still out of bounds for them. It was only in March that they would get to embark on their Superseries journey at the India Open. And they succumbed to a first round defeat there.
There was naturally a lot of uncertainty and trepidation lingering in the air for this very young pair, both of whom were teenagers then. But they brushed aside that setback soon after and rose to the occasion, reaching a couple of quarter-finals at that level, which helped them break into the top 25 and grab the India No. 1 spot.
They didn't rest on their laurels. The youngsters picked up from where they left and made it to the semi-finals of the Indonesia Masters in 2018, which marked the first time the two reached the last-four stage at any major event.
Today, Satwik’s scintillating smashes and Chirag’s deft touches at the net have made them one of the most lethal pairs, which is not afraid to take on any team in the world.
Their sheer consistency and fighting spirit has now been rewarded with a highly-coveted place in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) squad, something that the two are indisputably deserving of.
As Sportskeeda caught up with Chirag Shetty after the selection was announced, the 20-year-old Mumbai shuttler could not help but confess that this was never in their minds a year back when they began their incredible journey.
Honest as ever, Shetty -- a product of the Uday Pawar Badminton Academy in Mumbai -- said their only aim at that time was to win at least one round in Superseries tournaments.
“Well firstly I am very happy to be included in the CWG squad,” an elated Shetty said. “A year back we never expected to qualify. All we were thinking about was to perform well in the Superseries events. Our only target was to win at least a round as we were playing against people who were ranked much higher than us,” he admitted.
Seeing his name in the squad on Tuesday evening definitely took Shetty back to those initial days when they did not have much expectation and surely had no idea how the season would pan out for them. They have come a long way in just one year, which has made the selection extremely special.
Despite the euphoria, Shetty sounded very level-headed and sagacious. He acknowledged the fact that qualifying was just the first step, the real challenge now is to win a medal, which they have set their sights on.
“Thinking about that day and now this is actually special. But I feel qualifying is still okay. Winning a medal will be a huge thing for us.”
Shetty recognizes that performance in every tournament now is crucial if they want to approach the Commonwealth Games with a lot of momentum. And for that, they are focussed on making the most of their opportunities at next week’s German Open and the prestigious All England Open in mid-March.
“I would want to first perform well at the German Open that’s there next week and then the All England Open. After that, we have a two-week window to train for the CWG,” he explained.
'India can win mixed team event'
Besides Shetty and Rankireddy, mixed doubles exponent Pranaav Jerry Chopra has been named in the squad while Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy lead the men’s singles challenge. In the women’s section, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal will spearhead India’s campaign and will get able support from Ruthvika Shivani Gadde and doubles stars, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy.
When asked about India’s overall medal-winning chances, Shetty opined that India has a very balanced team this time. He also sounded optimistic about India winning the mixed team event, which is scheduled to be held from April 5-9, with the individual competition to follow soon after.
India have been placed in Group A alongside minnows Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Scotland. The top two teams from each group will progress to the quarter-finals. Shetty singled out Malaysia and England as possible threats for India, but has a lot of faith in the strong contingent that is being sent this time.
“Overall, we have a very balanced team,” Shetty said before adding, “We have the team event first, so I think we have two countries that are strong -- Malaysia and England. And frankly speaking, we definitely have a chance to win the team event, considering the strong contingent we have.”