Prannoy’s bronze lone silver lining for India at world badminton showpiece
World No.9 gives his country 14th medal in the showpiece while PV Sindhu’s woeful form ahead of Asian Games remains a concern
At 31, the lithe H.S. Prannoy finally found his name on the list of medallists at the World Championships (or Worlds as folks in the know call it) in Copenhagen on Saturday. It was India’s 14th medal at the marquee badminton event alright, though he had to remain content with a bronze after being pipped by world no. 3 Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in the semi-final.
A bronze medal in men’s singles would have been deemed satisfactory in the past, but not possibly for an India who are current Thomas Cup champions and considered one of the powerhouses in badminton. PV Sindhu, a gold medallist at the Worlds in 2019 and the most successful Indian player in the event with five individual medals, failed to shake off her lean patch as she was shown the door as early as in second round.
The in-form doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who came into the tournament on the back of three titles this year which took them to world No.2 in rankings, raised hopes with a progress to quarters till they were disposed off by the Danish pair of Kim Astrup and Skaarup Rasmussen finals on Friday.
Prannoy now joins an elite list of medallists at the Worlds: Prakash Padukone, the first Indian to win a medal with a bronze in 1983, Kidambi Srikkanth (silver, 2021), Lakshya Sen (bronze, 2021), B. Sai Praneeth (bronze, 2019), Saina Nehwal (silver in 2015, bronze in 2017), Satwik-Shetty (bronze, 2022), Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa (bronze, 2011) and of course, Sindhu.
The prolonged lean form of Sindhu, a double Olympics medallist who has now slipped to world No.15 rankings, and Nehwal not being the same force as before has created a vacuum at the top among Indian women – certainly a matter of concern ahead of the upcoming Asian Games. She dropped the long serving Korean coach Park Tae-Sang for Malaysian Hafiz Hashim in June, but the move has failed to reignite the spark in the ace so far.
This has put the onus back on the men to keep the flag flying at the international competitions, and Prannoy had put his best foot forward before coming up short against a rallying Vitidsarn on Saturday.
Only a day before, world No.9 Prannoy was at his tenacious best to dismantle Viktor Axelsen, the world No.1 and Olympic champion 13-21, 21-15, 21- 16 in a quarter final match that lasted an hour and eight minutes. Two back-to-back demanding matches could have taken it’s toll on Prannoy – who sounded relieved nevertheless after ensuring a medal.
‘’Finally, I managed to finish with a medal at the Worlds,’’ Prannoy said after beating the Great Dane but failed to end his rough luck against Vitidarsn. The Thai turned out to be a nemesis of the Indian players as he beat Lakshya Sen in the pre-quarterfinals and now maintains a clean record against Prannoy, having beaten him at the All England Championships in 2022.
He also won the Junior BWF World Championships three times and is now the favourite to claim gold in the final with Prannoy and Axelsen out of the equation.
Published: 27 Aug 2023, 8:33 AM