The 79th National Badminton Championships arrived in Vijayawada after a long gap of 34 years, and what an event it has been! The Business Hub of Andhra Pradesh (was) has stood witness to many great games- it has seen maestros being toppled and new talents springing up. The previous time (1981), Syed Modi had won his maiden National Games title, putting an end to Prakash Padukone’s reign. Perhaps the days of badminton glory are coming back to the city.
In an exciting final, Air India stunned Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) to take the Rahimtoola cup for the Men’s Team Championship. The PSPB women’s team, however, retained their title for the 15th time in a row, with a win over debutants Telangana.
Srikanth Back With a Bang:
Harsheel Dani jolted World No. 18 H S Prannoy 8-21, 21-17, 21-12 to give Air India an early lead in the finals. Sai Praneeth, known for his performances in the 2013 Singapore Super series suffered against World No. 226 Sameer Varma, who ousted him 18-21,21-11,21-17. Kidambi Srikanth, rebounded very well from his loss to Parupalli Kashyap in the recently concluded Syed Modi Grand Prix with two straight wins. Kidambi and Pranaav Jerry Chopra beat Shlok Ramachandran and Sanyam Shukla 15-21,17-21.In his second outing, Kidambi got the better of Aditya Joshi, 15-21 12-21, to square the match at 2-2.
With the score tied, it all came down to the final doubles match. Akshay Dewalkar, who along with Chopra had had an impressive outing at the Copenhagen World Badminton Championships last year, paired with Gopi Raju, battled back from the brink to beat Tarun Kona and B Sai Praneeth to seal victory.
It was an easy sail for the women’s PSPB team. Local favourite P V Sindhu beat debutant Telangana’s upcoming star G Ruthvika Shivani 21-15,21-16, and later teamed up with Ashwini Ponnappa to beat J Meghna and Rituparna Das 21-14, 5-21, 21-11.
Saina Pulls Out:
Amidst controversies and technical lapses, the National Badminton Championships has managed to provide a platform for the “new kids on the block”. It’s an opportunity to make their mark and prove their mettle. However, with Saina and Kashyap pulling out, the question of packed schedules and personal fitness has again come into light. It’s true that the presence of a Saina Nehwal or a P Kashyap would have added to the charm of the event, attracting more than the usual die-hard badminton fan. It’s a question of priorities and comes down to weighing the pros and cons in the end.
“I am not a machine. I am a human being. I can only play according to what my body permits. I play at least 12 to 15 tournaments around the globe a year” said Saina, pulling out of the tournament.
The conflict between personal performance and national interest is one that haunts all sports. Be it the Ranji Trophy, the National tennis meet or this badminton tournament, the prospect of representing the state is no longer an incentive for some participants. But then, can “participation” be demanded because one was born into a certain landmass? Moreover, how does one balance the need to test upcoming talent with the needs of India’s international stars? Food for thought…
As for badminton, if the record number of entries (634) in this year’s championships is any indication, perhaps the day is not far when we would not have to rely on individual players to garner attention to a national level tournament.