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No one takes us for granted anymore: Gopichand

While the success stories of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have given fans of Indian badminton a lot to cheer about, there's a quiet revolution taking place on the men's side of the sport as well.

Coach Pullela Gopichand
Coach Pullela Gopichand 

In the first week of May, there were eight Indian men listed in the top 50 of the world rankings. Surely, a feat which needs to be celebrated. Just eight months ago, P Kashyap was ranked sixth in the world. K Srikant now leads the pack at 18 while Kashyap has slipped to 21.

This duo is followed by Gurusai Datt, Ajay Jayaram, Sourabh Verma, HS Prannoy, Anand Pawar and Sai Praneeth.

And while most of the top-ranked players have featured in 15 to 18 tournaments to get to where they are, Srikant, Verma and Prannoy have played just 13 tournaments while Sai Datt has appeared in 10 competitions. This means that their actual world rankings could have been higher had they competed in more events.

Knowing no fear
There is no doubt that Indian players are playing without fear and with a lot of pride. Srikant won a GP Gold title in Thailand last year, reached the final of the Indian GP Gold and is routinely reaching quarters and semis of events.

The same goes for Kashyap, while others are catching up fast. In most major championships one can find a couple or more players reaching the quarters. Sourabh Verma for example blossomed enough to reach the Malaysian GP finals where he lost to Simon Santoso of Indonesia in an epic battle.

Two weeks later, Santoso stunned World No 1 Lee Chong Wei in the final of the Singapore Open in two games. So what has brought about this massive change?

Gopi's magic
In one word: Pullella Gopichand. This softspoken genius who swung his racquet like a sabre cutting down all opposition as a player, is no less ruthless as a coach.

"Few years ago, when I was training Kashyap, Saina and few others I could see the spark and the hunger for success in these players. And while Saina made quick strides, the boys followed a bit slowly.

But it is their hard work that has brought them so much success. They are a feared lot today and no one can take Indians for granted any more," Gopichand says.

"We have a tough system of training for sure, but the most important thing is that Gopi Sir has instilled belief in us. He has made us understand that we can be as good as any foreigner," says Sourabh Verma.

8
The number of Indian male shuttlers in the top 50 of the world badminton rankings during the first week of May

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