You know how history is created? One Kidambi Srikanth jump smash at a time.
As Srikanth leapt into the air one final time, hanging there for longer than a human being should be able to, and powered down a cross-court smash, his teammates were already vaulting across the advertising boards surrounding the court. That point had made it 22-20, and given him a 2-0 win over Jonathan Christie. It had also given India a 3-0 win against Indonesia in the Thomas Cup final. India's first ever title in the 73-year history of this de-facto world championships for team badminton.
India 3, Indonesia 0. India, champions of the world.
If you're an Indian sports fan, read that once, and then read it again, and then again.
It defies belief, really. Not just that India are champions, but how they did it. Teams don't do this to Indonesia in the Thomas Cup, not least teams who are appearing in their first final of the tournament. 14 times Indonesia have won this tournament but on Sunday, May 15, they couldn't make it 15. India; a stubborn, skillful, joyous team who knows no fear; simply did not allow it to happen.
Each match in the final provided vignettes of what makes this team so special:
- Lakshya Sen, getting dismissed in the first game against Anthony Ginting, before digging deep to fight and counter and attack. Taking the second game. Coming back from a four-point deficit in the third to win the match. His defence is *chef's kiss*, but his fight...
- Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty doing the impossible in the second, saving four match points against a team consisting of two of the greatest doubles players of all time in Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. Pulling off unreal returns, going for the kill, constantly believing. Winning.
- Kidambi Srikanth doing what he does best - taking the attack to Jonathan Christie - that incredible blend of touch and vision and pure power overwhelming everything in sight. Choosing the brave option every time - who tries a drop at the net when their opponent is right there while trying to save game point? Add a pinch of the audacity to believe and blend it in with the skill to execute (that drop went up, skimmed the net, dropped down in the most incredible trajectory): isn't that how you whip up greatness?
India had already created history just by being here. They had, in fact, done it by simply getting to the semifinals (their first ever). And they had done it as a team. That collective vault they did after the final had been done at every stage of the knockouts, every single member reveling in victory. When you see the normally reticent Srikanth leaping and screaming and vaulting hoardings, you know something special is happening.
It wasn't just in victory, either, this togetherness. Laskhya, seeded one, had struggled against some of the biggest names in world badminton throughout the tournament. Srikanth had stepped up, shouldering responsibility, winning every single match he played - the rock around which India rallied. The fact that Lakshya then put all those testing defeats behind him to come-from-behind against an in-form Ginting speaks volumes. Of his character, of the support he has in the team. The doubles pair of Satwiksairaj and Chirag, screaming and jumping and beating the odds time and again. Cajoling on the other youngsters - Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala. The veteran HS Prannoy, India's trump card as the no.3 singles player, beating pain and nerves and opponents in all-or-nothing fifth matches.
- BWF (@bwfmedia) May 15, 2022
A proper team. As Prannoy had told ESPN before the final: ""Everyone has their [role in the team]... everybody needs to be on their toes and if someone's not stepping up on that day, then someone else must and that's how the team event works. It just can't be a couple of players winning all the matches every time. This year I felt everybody was ready to take up that challenge and everybody just wanted to be on the court. I felt that made a big, big difference."
So big a difference that India are now champions of the world.
How they did it, the pure joy that they seemed to personify on the court and on the sidelines... that simply makes this history-making, awe-inspiring win that much more special.