Team India rewrote history by winning the Thomas Cup. This 72-year history has witnessed several great badminton pairs right from Prakash Padukone and Uday Pawar. Today we have with us the golden pair of our Thomas Cup victory, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. Excerpts:
Q. Firstly, congratulations to you both on this historic moment. How does it feel?
A. Chirag: feels good, the whole team’s environment was phenomenal and all of us are really happy, the way we played and. I think “we witnessed something historic”.
Satwik: We are still in that zone, we are champions of Thomas cup, I can’t imagine that we won that trophy. To me it is tremendous; the 10 days of journey, when I look back it’s like we had great beautiful memories, one of the best days in my life.
Q. You guys went down in the first set and then came back with guns blazing. What was being said after that 1st set?
A. Chirag: Well, at the half-time break, we spoke with our coach, who advised us to stick to the plan and keep things as simple as possible. At the half-time break, we were up 2-0. We were up 11-6 at the time. However, when we advanced to the second game, we squandered that lead and were down 20-17; our coach then advised us to keep things simple and safe. That is exactly what we did. I believe we were awarded a lucky point at 20-18, after which the match switched in our favour, and the rest is history.
Q. What was the mindset going into the final for the two of you? What were you working on knowing that Ahsan and Kevin are not easy nuts to crack?
A3. Satwik: Well, before the finals, we chatted to everyone who went and had a good time without thinking too much. We thought the Indonesian players would be in a much worse condition if we came in and played like champs.
“It’s our game now, it’s our moment to prove ourselves,” Laxman, the first man, and I thought. Our confidence was also reinforced by the large crowd. I believe the team’s upbeat attitude had an impact on us.
Q. What has the role of Matthias Boe been and what did he tell you guys? How did he inspire you and keep you motivated?
A. Satwik: Well, before the finals, we talked to everyone who came and had a fantastic time without overthinking things. We reasoned that if we came in and played like champions, the Indonesian guys would be in much worse shape.
“It’s our game now, our chance to shine,” Laxman, the first man, and I both thought. The enormous audience just added to our self-assurance. I feel the team’s positive attitude influenced us.
Q. You both look super comfortable playing with each other. This is what has made you one of the best men’s badminton pairs in the world today? What do you think makes things work between you two?
A. Chirag: One thing that worked really well for us is that we’re both really good friends, which helped us a lot on the court. Our relationship is very strong off the court, which shows on the court.
Satwik: I believe we are both more caring towards each other. We’re like “married couples” that always look out for one other and are there for one another when needed ( on court and off court). Both of us think in the same direction, both of us wanted to play in the same game, both of us wanted to follow the same plan, and our relationship is unbreakable. It is hoped that this trend will continue for a long period.
Q. Is our golden Jodi also the prankster partner in crime Jodi in the dressing room?
A. Chirag: We’re not pranksters, but we used to sit together, have meals together, and after dinner, we’d make our honours dance (i.e., Priyanshu, who’s playing Thomas Cup for the first time), and then we’d all start dancing with him because we were all so energetic.
Q. You guys expressed your feelings after the Olympics setback, but have now come back strong with this triumph. How has the journey been and what next for the two of you?
A. Chirag: Well, the voyage has been fantastic, despite the fact that it was fairly challenging following the Olympics. We had high hopes for the Olympics, but the outcome was disappointing. “I don’t think it could have been any better than coming back and winning the Thomas Cup.” It’s only the beginning of a long line of fantastic things to come from us and Indian Badminton.
Q. The Prime Minister and the sports ministry have announced honours for the entire team. What is your message to them?
A. Chirag: I think the job done by the ministry, the government, and the federation has been amazing. The amount of money the government spends on us is mind-boggling. They’ve been quite helpful with the top plan and everything, and they may have begun paying us as early as 5-7 years ago. And now they can see the final product, which is a major victory that would not have been achieved without their help. As a result, I owe a debt of gratitude to the government and the federal government.
Satwik: The Prime Minister and the government were quite supportive. We had no shortages, and everything was delivered on time. We’re only here to perform; all you have to do now is go play. There’s no reason to consider it.
Q. Chirag, did you get the charter plan request approved? (laughs)
A. (Laughs) No, not yet. It was said in good humour but it could have been taken seriously but they didn’t (laughs).
Q.Pullela Gopichand has penned a heartfelt article on the Thomas Cup win. Do you see this as a fitting tribute to our greats such as Padukone and Gopichand?
A. Chirag: I believe Prakash Sir, Gopi Sir, and everyone else wrote a lot of positive things about us, and I’ve read the majority of the articles. “You guys are still young and don’t know what you guys have achieved,” Vimal sir used to say at team meetings.
Satwik: Definitely, Gopi isn’t going to sing your praises. He never says “you did a terrific job” when he says “go back on the training.”
Q.Now that you have scripted history as a doubles pair, what would you tell the kids and pursuing doubles? There is a perception that glorifies singles.
A. Satwik: Well, singles tend to attract a lot of attention. When I first started playing, there were a lot of singles, but as time went on, they changed to doubles, which isn’t the same as playing doubles professionally. When I was younger, I used to see all of the seniors start with singles and then move on to doubles. My batchmates and I, on the other hand, began playing doubles when we were under the age of 15. Nowadays, I believe doubles is doing rather well.
Q. Chirag’s picture celebrating with your shirt off has set the social media on fire. Was it inspired by Ganguly or Ronaldo?
A. It wasn’t prompted by anyone; it just happened in the moment; I couldn’t control my emotions, and the victory meant a lot to us and the team.