It’s been 72 years of waiting, but India has finally won the Thomas Cup. It is a pathbreaking moment, not just in badminton but in the entire sports journey of India. So we have with us the man who is a crucial part of this triumph and is someone who has made all of India proud.
Q. We have to begin with this, Srikanth. How are you feeling? It’s been a 72-year wait.
A. See, first of all, I’m very happy and also the fact that I usually take at least a day to understand what has happened. For any individual tournament that I want and this being a team event, I think it will take a little longer than usual and it didn’t really hit me how big this is and how big this is going to be. So it is that it’ll take a while for me to sink it in.
Q. Not just did we win, but we defeated the favourite Indonesian 3-0. That speaks a lot about you, huh, about the character of you boys. You know, what motivated you and the boys when you got to the final?
A. See, I believe that even before we arrived in Thailand, we told each other that we had to do well; that we had to work as a team and that we had to really back each other up; that we had to really push each other to do well. If the player was not playing, he was bare in the dugout from the beginning till the end, cheering for all the players. Everyone really contributed in their own way; it’s a team victory.
Q. Defeating Jonathan Christie in straight states is an achievement in itself. How did you tackle this challenge of playing against the world number eight?
A. The last time I played in my last term was in a strike set, but it was a very close call. First set and then the second set. I was leading in both the sets, but then I couldn’t really finish the match. I just thought I needed to be more consistent in those crucial moments, as well as be more focused and play in accordance with the strategy. It was a very close two sets and I am extremely happy that I was able to get those crucial points.
Q. What is your message to the Indians who poured in wishes for you and were backing you with all their hearts yesterday?
A. First of all, I would like to really thank everyone. They’ve been very cheerful. I was getting a lot of messages from the quarterfinals. All of them have been really very supportive. There were a lot of people praying for our win. So I believe that this victory belongs not just to the ten people, the ten players, the ten coaches, or the ten support staff, but to every Indian citizen and I would really like to thank everyone for being so supportive.
Q. What has been the role of the entire coaching staff and the current generation of badminton players? This is it, you know, it really inspires all of us.
A. I know the coaches here, they’ve been very supportive, and then we also have very experienced coaches, physios, and managers. They were all really excited to do well for the country. They were all very excited from day one; they were all pumped up. It’s nice to have such a great coaching team and then also the support staff, so they were all really very helpful. They were taking care of all of us really well from the beginning.
Q. Sixth, you played six games in the Thomas Cup and one in all six. Is this the best of Kidambi Srikanth that will be written in the history books for our young kids?
A. Maybe the best, but uh, I think there’ll be a better version of me in the future.
Q. What is your message to the federation and the sports ministry after this win because the honourable announced honours for the entire team yesterday?
A. Our Prime Minister called us immediately after our match. It was a great feeling to talk to him. He actually followed all our matches, so he exactly knew each player’s performance and how they did throughout the tournament. So it feels really nice that the Prime Minister of India has called to congratulate all of us on our win. It’s so nice to be recognized, and again, big thanks to our sports minister for really recognising the effort that all of us have put in. We are getting all the messages. All the wishes, all the prayers, everything came through. So I’m just very happy. I can’t really explain it. I’m short of words.
Q. What is it that you focused on before the Thomas Cup that worked brilliantly in your favour?
A. I think the one thing we did differently as a team is that we told each other that we would work, travel together, go out for lunch, dinner, breakfast, or whatever as a team. We travel as a team and then we have regular team meetings. It’s just us players, not the coaches or anyone else, just us players. We’ll have meetings before and after matches. I think that really bonded all of us, and we as a team wanted to win this tournament more than any other team. I think it really showed on the court.
Q. Is this an appropriate tribute to our great speed Prakash Padukone, as well as your coach and other badminton greats?
A. I think they’ve done exceptionally well as players and now as coaches, so their contribution to badminton is a lot. We are still very young, and I think we still have a lot of time and we can still achieve a lot more. I don’t think we can really compare that to their contribution to badminton.
Q. You guys are set to play another tournament in Thailand now, so how were the quick celebrations before you set for the battle again?
A. All of us went out for a team dinner yesterday, like last night, and then we just kind of got to spend some time with each other. Now really enjoy the moment and then talk about the experiences of playing the first Thomas Cup final. All of us will travel. We’ll keep travelling together. You know, even though if it’s not for team events, it’ll be for individual events, all of us will keep traveling.
Q. What is next for Srikanth in badminton? is the team eyeing after this?
A. The next big tournament that we have this year is the Commonwealth Games, and then there is the World Championships after that. I am really looking forward to playing well in both these events. The Asian games got postponed, so there are only commonwealth games and world championships this year. I’m really looking forward to playing well even in those tournaments.
Q. Finally, Srikanth, and this is purely as a fan, I would like to ask, how does it feel to be the GOAT of Indian badminton?
A. Yes, it feels nice; it just feels happy.[Laughter]
Q. You have travelled the world in recent tournaments, Thailand and Singapore, so do you miss home?
A. I obviously do, you know, and also because I have been travelling a lot in the last six to eight months, now I do miss home a lot and especially the cuisine in late summer.
Q. We spoke to your father right away and the proud father, Mr. Krishna, has this to say… (byte of KVS) How would you react to this?
A. I think even in this team there are a lot of youngsters, so it’s definitely going to get better for Indian badminton from here. I feel you know if all these youngsters are very promising, if all these youngsters really work hard, I am sure there’ll be many more Thomas cups and many more world champions.
Q. Is this a new era that is emerging?
A. I think this will inspire many more kids to take up badminton and too many players who are already playing to really believe in themselves. We all know what 83 World Cup has done to cricket, so this one could also do something like that to badminton.
Q. Your message to the young badminton player?
A. I would like to say only one thing: if they really have the passion, if they’re really willing to work hard, give their hundred percent effort, they can definitely do well and win more tournaments. We now have the infrastructure and have the support from the government. It’s just about the players. It’s for them now to really work hard and if they can really work hard, they will definitely see success.
Q. We end this with a personal question. How has your journey been to this?
A. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I was playing well when I got injured. I had to come back then. The tournament didn’t really happen. Then I couldn’t really get into the Olympics. I really had to again forget all of that and then continue working hard. Then suddenly, the world championships happened, and yeah, there were a lot of ups and downs, but that is what every player will have to go through and I’m just happy that at the moment I am really feeling confident.