Gopichand wins the All England Championships-Saina wins the bronze at the 2012 London Olympics-Sindhu wins silver at Rio 2016- Sindhu wins bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics- and so on. You might have heard about such great moments in Indian badminton. You can observe that all these events were in the individual category. However, have you ever heard of India winning a team event in world badminton? Well, let me take you across a feat by the men’s badminton team that only a few would have believed possible to happen- Champions of the Thomas Cup 2022.
History of India at the Thomas Cup
Before I take you through the winning moment, let us understand what is the Thomas Cup and India’s past performance in the event.
What is the Thomas Cup?
The Thomas Cup, also called, ‘the World Men’s team Championship’ is named after James Alan Thomas, the man behind the idea of this event. He got inspiration from the Davis Cup(Tennis) and World Cup(Soccer).
The format goes like this-
-A total of 16 teams take part in the tournament from five different continental federations(Asia, Europe, Africa, Pan-America, and Oceania). For instance, in Asia, we have the Asia Team Badminton Championships.
-The defending champions and the host country get automatically qualified.
-The 16 teams play in a round-robin format in a group of 4
-The top 2 teams from each group qualify for the quarterfinals.
India at the Thomas Cup
Since the event began in 1978, India has managed to qualify for only 13 of the past 32 editions. Their best performance was reaching the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010 respectively. Until 2020, only five countries had won the biennial event namely- Indonesia (14), China (10), Malaysia(5), Denmark(1), and Japan(1). With India’s win this year, it has become the sixth country to join this elite club.
India at the 2022 Thomas Cup
India was placed in Group C with Chinese Tapei, Germany, and Canada. They entered the quarterfinals finishing second after Chinese Taipei in the group stage. Through the next stages, they played with nations of greater pedigree- Malaysia and Denmark. Many would have expected a strong fight from India but not one which would lead them to the finals. However, taking everyone by shock, the Indian men sailed smoothly through these challenges of Malaysia and Denmark to reach their first-ever final at the Thomas Cup.
They were to face the 14 times champions, Indonesia in the finals. Successive wins by Lakshya Sen, Satwik Sairaj/Chirag Shetty, and the decider by Srikanth Kidambi helped India clinch their maiden Thomas Cup title. It’s an accomplishment that will never be forgotten.
Why is this Thomas Cup victory special?
Indian badminton is primarily a testament to individual success in the World Championships, All England, and the Olympics. The Indian men have been under the radar but lately, there have been signs of resurgence with the likes of Srikanth winning a World Championship medal, Satwik Sairaj, and Chirag Shetty’s emergence in doubles, and so on. Winning the Thomas Cup was a stepping stone for all the Indian men’s badminton players. Mental strength is equally important as physical strength and the men’s team showed immense of it at the Thomas Cup.
Believe in yourselves! We have heard it several times but only when we actually feel it, we can achieve what we want. That’s what the Indian men’s team taught us. Self-belief, resilience, confidence, and character were some of the major takeaways. They were facing 14-time finalists but once did they let that thought affect their game. I feel this is a wake-up call to all young players of the country that Indian badminton is on the rise and it should continue rising.
With increasing government and private support, badminton has excelled over the past decade in terms of academies coaches, and technology. Moreover, the recent performances have also attracted attention from several stakeholders in the sports industry. Surely, the Thomas Cup is a wake-up call to all players, government, and private entities that badminton has become one of the strongest sport in the country.