What India's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty need to do to be among the world's bests
Until about a year back, India's success in badminton was limited to only men's and women's singles. But since then, two youngsters have come up and shown the world that India can be a reckoning force in doubles as well.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, under the watchful eyes of India's doubles coach Tan Kim Her, have really progressed through the ranks. Most recently, the duo scripted history when they bagged the silver medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. In the process, they became the first-ever men's doubles team from India to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
It is a well-known fact, though, at first, when they were paired together for the first time by Tan, they weren't entirely happy with that. The Malaysian coach, on his part, was confident that the duo, if put together, will garner results.
"When Satwik played with Krishna MR Arjun played with Chirag but when I analysed I saw they were doing well only in the junior circuit. What about the international level? I came here to produce international results. So, I had a feeling that maybe the pairings are not suitable for the international level," Tan told Sportskeeda on the sidelines of a felicitation ceremony organised by the Badminton Association of India (BAI).
"So, I wanted to change the pairing and see what the results were going to be. Chirag is a specialist in net play while Satwik's attacking game is really good. In the beginning, they were not too happy but you know, because of my experience, I see things that these young players don't," he continued. "I told them, just give me a few months, then you see the difference but you have to follow my instructions."
Indeed, the results are here for everyone to see now.
'Satwik & Chirag must strive for consistency now'
While they have won the silver medal in Gold Coast, Satwik, 17, and Chirag, 20, are yet to win any major BWF titles. Tan, though, is not worried. He feels being consistent is more important for the youngsters over the next few months.
"We've to go step by step. They are both upcoming players, you can't expect them to win tournaments already. What I want from them this year, is consistency. Whatever tournaments they go to, they must make it a least to the quarters. By 2019, they have to make it to the semifinals and by 2020, they must start winning medals," he said.
"I've told them, 'Don't go to the Olympics just to be a part of the team. If you go there, you have to try and win a medal. So follow the instructions, follow the target, follow the dream'," he added.
Asked about what the biggest challenges will be for Satwik and Chirag in the near future, Tan replied that now that they have started doing well, the opposing teams will start analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Until now, they were relatively new entities. But the time has come when their games will be shredded apart by experts.
"When they started out, no one knew them. No one knew how they played or how talented they are. But now, other countries have seen the two play, they have analysed the playing style. So, it is important to see how they perform now.
"My objective now is to try and bring changes into their game, bring variations, because that is the only way to improve," Tan said.
Of course, this is just the beginning for the two talented youngsters. Their best is yet to come and if they have already achieved something no other Indian male pair has been able to do. They have broken into the World top-20, maybe earlier than they had expected, but things only look better. Should they keep up their consistency and keep adapting their game, there is no doubt that they will soon be among the bests in the world.