Common Wealth Games 2018: Srikanth's win over Chong Wei the high point of India's march to gold
Yesterday was a historic day for Indian badminton at the Commonwealth Games. Not only was this their first mixed team gold medal at the Games, it was also achieved after a breathtakingly dominant performance against three-time defending gold medallists and arguably the strongest badminton-playing nation at Gold Coast, Malaysia.
However, India's shuttlers gave two hoots to reputation from the outset, their confidence and skill-set outgunning the Malaysians who were possibly a bit complacent and were shaken out of their reverie by India's aggression.
The shock began early. First, it was the turn of Olympic silver medallists Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying to bite the dust in the mixed doubles encounter who lost 14-21, 21-15, 15-21 to the Satwik Rankireddy-Ashwini Ponnappa pair. Ponnappa led the charge and was seen to be the strategist in-chief in this battle of wits with Rankireddy showing his immense skill and physical prowess in the back-court.
However, if there was one match that really served as a testament to the immense strides Indian badminton has taken it was the one that followed the mixed doubles match.
Kidambi Srikanth is already on the cusp of gaining the No.1 ranking in the world, he is a proven champion of the contemporary game and can beat anyone on his day, however, he was facing a legend.
Lee Chong Wei maybe 35 now, but he is still one of the greatest players ever to have played the game.The three-time Olympic silver medallist and former world No 1 has won 67 titles in his long and illustrious career. He is still a force to be reckoned with and won the All England Open in 2017 which is now a super series tournament.
Thus, this was a match-up between the old and the new, the rising force taking on the slowly-sinking behemoth of modern badminton, both having a lot to prove on the world stage. Srikanth, attempting to show that he is the best right now, Chong Wei, desperate to show he can still beat anyone on his day.
The match was expected to be a tight, nervy affair, the smart money was still on Lee to prevail, on him to bring all his experience into play and secure a comeback for the Malaysians.
After all, he has been there done that on several occasions. He had been in great form throughout the team event as well.
But all such calculations were thrown out of the window at the outset as Srikanth's aggression and speed really took the veteran by surprise. At the net, while smashing from the back-court and while defending, the Indian's movement was far niftier that his illustrious rival.
He has not one four superseries titles last year for nothing. Chong Wei really had no answer to the firepower that the current World No 2 brought to the table. In the end, Srikanth had won his first ever match against the Malaysian national hero, 21-17, 21-14.
Though Indians dropped a hard-fought men's doubles match after this, Saina Nehwal used all her well-honed craft to secure the gold medal after defeating Sonia Cheah in the women's singles.
Word is out that Srikanth will be crowned the new World No 1 soon, the first Indian male in the modern era and the composure and elan that marked his victory proves that the Srikanth era is here to stay, his star is shining at its brightest now.Published 11 Apr 2018, 02:23 IST