India's Thomas Cup Victory Is Like "Winning the World Cup in Cricket," Says Dinesh Khanna, Only Indian To Win Asian Badminton Championships
Dinesh Khanna, the only Indian till date to win the Asian Badminton Championships (1965), likened India's Thomas Cup triumph to a World Cup win in cricket
The Indian men's badminton team entered a super-elite club on Sunday as it became only the sixth in the world to win the prestigious tournament, often considered the world team championships of the sport. India defeated 14-time winners Indonesia 3-0 in the final in Bangkok on Sunday to win their first gold medal in the tournament's history. They had defeated 2016 winners Denmark in the semi-finals. In the title clash, World Championships medallists Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth won their respective singles ties while the doubles team of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy also won their match.
Dinesh Khanna, the only Indian till date to win the Asian Badminton Championships (1965), likened the win to a World Cup win in cricket. Khanna, who also won bronze medal in the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica apart from a bronze medal in 1969 Asian Championships in 1969, played in five Thomas Cup editions for India and led the country in the final rounds of Thomas Cup in 1972 before retiring in 1976.
"Thomas Cup is the biggest team title, it is the world team championship for men, so obviously winning the world team title at a particular game, in a particular sport is the biggest title. It is like winning World Cup in cricket, something similar to that. Because we do not have team championships in Olympics, so outside the Olympics, it is the biggest title which we have managed to win. Earlier our performance, we reached the semi-finals 43 years ago, so it is a huge achievement for the game and the sport. I would say that overall it shows our our dominance and improvement in the game. Doubles has historically been a weak link for us, but doubles was a very criticial point that we scored today," Khanna, who became the first Indian to win the Asian Badminton Championships in 1965, told NDTV.
The 79-year-old Khanna added that the 3-0 margin of victory in the final against Indonesia showed the temperament of the team.
"Yes, very huge win but if you see the margin in a sense that, in doubles it was a very close call. It could have gone the either way. It was a convincing victory as far as Kidambi was concerned, but in the other matches we had to really fight it out. Lakshya Sen also kept his cool, he lost his first game but after that, he bounced back really strongly. He showed great nerve and commitment. I must say all our players, singles and doubles, they kept their cool and gave us a thumping victory against 14-time champions Indonesia. So far, only five countries have won the Thomas Cup, India is now the sixth country to win the title," he said.
"I think it is absolutely heartening. As we saw in the World Championships that were held last year, we had Srikanth in the finals. He was a silver medallist, we had bronze medallist Lakshya Sen and we had a quarter-finalist in HS Prannoy. You can see that we have a very strong singles trio and ofcourse, there are few players that are in the wings. We have excellent depth in terms of singles. Satwiksairaj and Chirag Shetty have been doing exceedingly well, they have been losing matches in Super Series matches, but in the Thomas Cup they won some very crucial matches for the team."