Seeing India Win the World’s Greatest Badminton Cup from Home
This short piece also appeared in the Indian Express!
Players never lose their composure on court. I wondered how this was possible as I sat home watching the Thomas Cup final, hearing dhol beats blaze through the stadium each time an Indian shuttler scored a point. No matter what the people’s collective hysterics, the player always maintained a laser-like focus. Only in the final moment of victory would the infallible sink to the ground with joy as all pressure left his body. The ground beneath his feet must have shifted on endless emotional tides, yet he had somehow held it all together. With the strength of players of such calibre, India won her first Thomas Cup in history on May 15th. It was a dream that had awaited realisation for over 70 years.
The excitement of the final day began with 20-year-old Lakshya Sen. He showed an unforeseen skill and stability for his youth, and performed at the key moments despite his fears. The doubles team emerged next, with a firebrand new duo that looked just like the sporting heroes children’s comic books might envision. Satwik and Chirag had an unmistakeable killer instinct. I felt certain that simply to see them line up across the net in one fluid movement, like well-trained fighters, would daunt any opponent a little. They turned the match around with ferocious skill, defeating a far more experienced team. This helped me console my worried father sitting beside me. ‘Fighters fight, Papa,’ I told him and indeed, Chirag and Satvik were relentless until they won.
The player who carried India through her final and most pressure-sown match was Kidambi Srikanth. He performed with remarkable grace, showing the incisive judgement of a seasoned champion and managed to make the final match the quickest one.
It is noteworthy to mention the emotional energy a tournament drains from a supporter here. The tight wound feeling vanished within us all, and it was replaced by a pure joy. Roars of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ rang out from the screen, proudly proclaimed in a faraway foreign land amid dhol beats. The players danced as vigorously as the supporters. The Indian flag crowned their shoulders. In a few minutes, our national anthem reverberated through the world’s greatest badminton arena for the first time ever.
I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I watched this absolute, uncontrolled expression of joy on TV. Their happiness was so pure and palpable that I could not stop the answering call of my own heart’s happiness. Sports gifts people an emotion that heals the weariness of the heart, I realised. It celebrates honest work and pure intentions. It unleashes a lightness of spirit and unity that is perhaps impossible for anything else to inspire. It has the power to tie a whole nation in one moment of sacred emotion. As we watched our boys win, I was floating on the current of an emotion that must have been replicated in millions of Indian hearts by now. A national lift to our pride, and a pure boundless joy.