Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap: The initial flagbearers of India's golden era in Baminton
In the 20th century, Indian badminton tasted international success and had some great players like Prakash Padukone, P Gopichand, Aparna Popat, Syed Modi and Vimal Kumar. Both Prakash Padukone and P Gopichand won the prestigious All England Badminton Championships, and were among the top shuttlers of their time.
But as a whole, India was not among the top badminton nations of the World.
The main reason for this was the lack of infrastructure and exposure. Many a time, these great players failed to perform to the best of their potential because of lack of proper preparation.
However, in the 21st century, things changed. With better facilities and exposure, Indian badminton players started winning consistently in World events. With players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, K Srikanth, HS Pranoy, P Kashyap, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa coming up, and consistently winning international events, Indian badminton reached its peak in the recent years.
This golden period of Indian badminton started from the year 2008-2009, with the emergence of Saina Nehwal, as a teenage sensation. Nehwal reached the Quarter Finals of the Beijing Olympics at the tender age of 16. This remarkable feat not only made her a star, but also made the game of badminton immensely popular in India.
Alongside Saina Nehwal came another world class badminton player, Parupalli Kashyap. Both of them were products of Gopichand's academy, in Hyderabad. Saina Nehwal and P Kashyap were India's best women's and men's singles players respectively, for a long period, before PV Sindhu and K Srikant took the baton from them.
Saina Nehwal has obviously been the poster girl for Indian badminton. Her great achievements are unparalleled. She was the first Indian badminton player to win a medal (Bronze) in the Olympic Games, in 2012. She also won multiple medals for the country in tournaments like the World Championships, Uber Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Nehwal was the first Indian player to become number one in Women's Singles World Rankings and has been in the top ten for most of her illustrious career. She is undoubtedly one of greatest badminton players of her generation and the biggest icon for Indian badminton.
On the other hand, Parupalli Kashyap had always been under the shadow of Saina Nehwal. Both Kashyap and Saina's careers blossomed at the same time, i.e between 2008-2015.
Although Kashyap could not achieve as much as Saina did in her career, his achievements were also quite noteworthy.
He won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2010 and reached the quarterfinals of the London Olympics in 2012. He also rose as high as number six in Men's Singles World rankings, which is a commendable achievement, for sure. In his long and illustrious career, Kashyap has mostly been among the top 25 shuttlers in the world. He has had many memorable encounters with the greats of the game like Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei.
Both Saina Nehwal and P Kashyap's achievements as badminton players and their contribution in making India a badminton powerhouse is what makes them such important sporting figures. It is their consistent performances in the international events that kickstarted the badminton revolution in India.
Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap can surely be considered as the two main flagbearers of "Indian Badminton's Golden Era".