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Didn’t think we could win gold: HS Prannoy

HS Prannoy was one of the main architects of India’s historic Thomas Cup win. He rates the triumph as one of the greatest moments of his career and in the history of Indian badminton. Speaking to Boria Majumdar from Thailand, Prannoy opened up about what the mood was like in the team, how they dealt with the quarter-final against Malaysia, the semi-final against Denmark and more. Excerpts

Now that you have been able to come to terms with the significance of your achievement, how do you look back at the Thomas Cup campaign?
It’ll always be one of the greatest moments of my career. I have enjoyed some great personal victories, but this is different. Here we were playing as India. And that’s what matters to any athlete. When you play for your country and win the greatest prize, nothing can be better than that. When we came to Bangkok, we were determined to return with a medal. However, none of us ever imagined it could be the gold. I can speak for myself and must confess I did not think we could win the gold. So, you can understand how special this achievement is for all of us.

Loss in the decider against Malaysia in the quarter-final would’ve meant no medal for India. How do you look back at that match?

Some things are destined to happen. It was one such game. When I was down 1-7 in the opening game, I said to myself that I’ve to get back to 5-7 and if I was able to do so I wouldn’t let this one get away from me. It happened exactly as I had envisaged, and I knew I would win it. Even in the decider against Denmark in the semi-finals I was never apprehensive of what would happen even after I was injured. During the medical timeout, I told Siyadutt sir (Mohd. Siyadutallah, support staff member) that I’ll win this. My movements were restricted in the first game but I was back in it in the second and never looked back.

Winning this title must be a great feeling since you have gone through a lot in the last few years with multiple injuries and more.

Yes, it has been difficult but that’s where I credit Gopi sir (Pullela Gopichand) and the team. Gopi sir has always told me if I want to be a good player and have a long career I have to keep it in mind that I’ll lose 2-3 years because of injury. That’s par for the course if you have a long career. The important thing is I have been able to come back from it all and do something tangible. Victories like these give you the confidence to keep going.

Beating Denmark in the semi-final must’ve been special. You again won the decider.

Everyone in the team was determined not to let Denmark win. Losing wasn’t an option. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were brilliant in the doubles. They had to deal with multiple match points and it was as close as it could get. So, when it came to the decider, I just couldn’t let everyone down. It was my opportunity. And I was feeling a kind of confidence which you feel on days when nothing can go wrong for you.

How important do you think this victory is?
We all have won some great individual contests. But if you see the way we’ve played as a team, we needed a victory like this to ensure the world sits up and takes notice. I always wanted the world to be scared of India. Look at us differently. It could only happen if we won at the big stage and made a point. In that sense, future generations will now look at Indian badminton very differently. They now know what we’re capable of and youngsters who will come up the ranks will see this legacy in front of them. We had the Thailand Open the next week. Not a single player ever made a mention of it during the Thomas Cup. No one was concerned about individual achievements. It was about the team and about doing it for the country. That’s what makes this victory all the more significant.

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