“Both Sindhu and Saina have played a major role in the resurgence of Indian badminton. They have been real superstars,” Prakash Padukone stated in a video interview with Scroll.in.
“There was a time when Indian players were scared of the Chinese. If they drew a Chinese player in the first round, they would not think of making it beyond that stage. Things have completely changed now.”
It was a sentiment also echoed by Saina Nehwal’s husband and contemporary, Parupalli Kashyap, who himself is a key part of Indian badminton’s revolution in the past decade. Kashyap is the first Indian male to make an Olympic quarterfinal at London 2012.
Her efforts culminated in bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, making it the first Olympic medal for Indian badminton.
Rio 2016 silver medallist PV Sindhu made an early impact in her senior career when she beat former world No. 1 Chinese and London gold medallist Li Xuerui soon after the latter had achieved the feat.
Sindhu went on to emulate another Chinese great and two-time Olympic gold-medallist Zhang Ning’s record of five medals at the World Championships.
“They have beaten the best players, be it the Danes or the Koreans, without fear and now, it is just a question of trying to consistently do it at the big events,” added Prakash Padukone.
The way forward for Indian badminton
The former shuttler credited fellow All England Open winner and current national coach Pullela Gopichand for setting up an academy post-retirement that provided talented players with all the requisite facilities without having to worry about finances.
While Prakash Padukone felt that more such academies should be set up to unearth talents from the grassroots, he also had a word of advice on how Indian badminton should proceed in the coming years.
“I think we need to focus more on four important tournaments in a calendar year - All England, World Championship, the Olympics once in four years, and the World Tour finals,” opined Prakash Padukone.
“I think it will make a huge difference to Indian badminton if we can get the Olympic gold or win the All England or win the World Championships. We are looking at being number one in the world.”