Has Kidambi Srikanth already become as great as Pullela Gopichand and Prakash Padukone?
Srikanth Kidambi is having a dream year, having broken several records, but is he at the level of legends like Gopichand and Padukone?
Kidambi Srikanth has had a fantastic 2017 campaign. Not only does he hold the record for the most wins in the 2017 season, but also numerous others. Srikanth has now moved to 2nd in the BWF ranking. But for all his achievements, can he be considered the 'Greatest Indian Male Badminton Player of All Time'?
That may be a bold statement as it pits him up against some legendary Indian players like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand. The Guntur shuttler first made a mark in 2011 when he won the silver in mixed doubles and bronze in doubles. When he won the Denmark Open in October 2017, Srikanth rose above Indian badminton legends Prakash Padukone and his own coach Pullela Gopichand.
In 2012, he won the Maldives International Challenge by defeating Zulfadli bin Zulkiffli. A year later he won the BWF Grand Prix Thailand Open. 2014 put him on the map after he won the China Open by stunning Lin Dan in the final. He was runner-up at the Syed Modi International, two years in a row in 2014 and 2015.
With regard to the BWF Super Series, he has won in China, India, Indonesia, Australia, Denmark and France, now. The only tournament he hasn't won yet, is the Singapore Open. He also won gold at the South Asian Games in 2016 in India.
Former badminton player Pullela Gopichand is considered a legend in his own right. The highest BWF rank he achieved was 5th. Despite all that, he has racked up an impressive array of laurels. In 2001, he won the All England Open, thus becoming the second Indian player to win at that particular tournament. To do this, he defeated Chen Hong with a score of 15-12, 15-6. Along the way to the All England Open final, he defeated Peter Gade, who was the World Number 1 at the time. Hong was the World number 2.
He is also the recipient of the Arjuna Award, the Khel Ratna, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Dronacharya Award and many other such awards and mementoes of recognition.
Prakash Padukone's career
Prakash Padukone was the blueprint of Indian badminton. The former World Number 1 player is arguably the greatest ever Indian badminton player. The Karnataka player made his debut way back in 1962. He won the state junior title in 1964 and from that point onwards, he was simply sublime. Padukone got his international break in 1978 when he won the gold in that year's Commonwealth Games. He also won the team bronze in the 1974 and 1986 Asian Games.
What further propelled him to the standard of Indian badminton legend, were his 1979 Denamrk Open title, and his 1980 All England Open title, becoming the first Indian to win it.
Making a case for Kidambi Srikanth
While it is worth noting that neither of the 3 players have won an Olympic gold yet, Srikanth is still in with a shout of achieving one. The 24-year-old Srikanth still has a number of playing years ahead of him, during which time, we can expect the Indian shuttler to better his own achievements, and thosee of the two former champions.
He also has Gopichand as his coach, so his talent and experience is being passed on to Srikanth. Much before that, Gopichand himself, was a part of Padukone's Badminton academy. So you could say that Padukone's and Gopichand's legacy is living on in young Srikanth. The Guntur-lad will certainly have lot of challenges along the way as the current crop of badminton players are highly competitive.
Judging by all these statistics, we can say that Kidambi Srikanth may not be at the level of Gopichand and Padukone yet, but he is getting mighty close and who knows, maybe he can snatch the World Number 1 spot in the near future, we certainly can't put that past him.