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'Thomas Cup Win Shows India Is A Great Badminton Nation'

By HARISH KOTIAN
May 24, 2022 09:39 IST
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'You can't just have one single player who is individually doing well and be able to win the World Championship or the Olympics.'
'In the Thomas Cup, you need a group of players performing at the same time at their highest level.'
'So that shows how difficult it is, and what a great achievement that is for a country like India to be able to win it.'

IMAGE: India created badminton history in Bangkok on May 15, 2022, shocking 14-time champions Indonesia 3-0 in the final to win the Thomas Cup for the first time. Photograph: Badminton World Federation/Twitter
 

Mathias Boe is one of the badminton greats from Denmark, having won medals at the Olympic Games, World Championships and the coveted Thomas Cup title besides several other titles.

Boe, 41, has been the guiding force behind Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy's superb performances during India's historic triumph at the Thomas Cup on Sunday, May 15, 2022, a day will always be remembered in the nation's sports history.

Boe, who signed up as the Indian men's doubles coach last month for his second stint, rates India's Thomas Cup triumph as a huge achievement only behind the Olympics and World Championships.

In the first part of a freewheeling conversation with Rediff.com's Harish Kotian, Mathias Boe on what went into Chirag and Satwiksairaj's splendid showing at the Thomas Cup and why he believes they could be the world's best doubles pairing.

How big is winning the Thomas Cup?

It's huge!

As a player, I would rank it just after the Olympics and World Championship, soit is huge. But if you look at it at a broader perspective, and if you look at it as how difficult it is for a country to win the Thomas Cup, it's actually above the two others.

You cannot just have one single player who is individually doing really well and be able to win a World Championship and also the Olympics. In the Thomas Cup, you need a group of players performing at the same time at their highest level.

The win shows that the nation is a great badminton nation; otherwise, it wouldn't be possible.

If you look at my home country Denmark, it has Olympic champions currently, we have had World champions for the last 50-70 or 100 years, but despite that, we have only won the Thomas Cup one time.

So that shows how difficult it is, and what a great achievement that is for a country like India to be able to win it. It is an incredible performance by the players and I am really proud of them.

IMAGE: Danish badminton great Mathias Boe took over as the Indian men's doubles coach last month. Photograph: Badminton World Federation/Twitter

What does this triumph mean for you personally, because you only joined last month for your second stint as doubles coach?

I love to win.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to win a lot of great things. Also, the Thomas Cup in 2016 with Denmark. You get a high from winning.

That's what every athlete is chasing, it is these big victories. And now I am fortunate enough to try it as a coach also, for coaching the doubles that in a team that has just done magnificently.

So for me to be able to do this, and achieve this, as a coach it is something that I am really proud of. It personally feels really, really, good for me to have been a part of that team who did such a great thing.

And especially for India, which as a nation is really good at recognising its champions. Obviously, I am really thrilled to be a part of this historical moment.

The doubles doesn't get the same limelight as singles, in any sport. The singles champions are quite popular, but the doubles winners don't get the same plaudits.
In an event like the Thomas Cup, the doubles players have that equally important role as the singles players.
Would you say focusing on doubles is an important area where India needs to focus going forward because badminton's reach and popularity is growing?

Absolutely correct! The doubles players don't get the same recognition as singles.

And a good example of that is from my home country of Denmark, where, besides Victor (Axelsen), then me and a few other doubles players, we are the ones who have won by far the most and have the greatest results, but still my name is not in the Hall of Fame.

Carsten Mogensen's name is not there, Christina Pedersen, who has won two Olympic medals, Camilla Martin Nygaard, who also won a silver medal at the Olympics and has been the World champion, none of them are in the Hall of Fame, but you have a lot of single players.

I don't know why it is. Maybe it's because it's looked upon as an individual sport and you see doubles as a team that you don't get the same recognition as the single players. I just know that it's always been like that.

That said, I think Chirag and Satwiksairaj have had a lot of positive feedback from the journalists here in India. Many of the experts from around the world were also calling them the MVP (Most Valuable Players) of the tournament, having won all their matches in the quarter-final, semi-final and final.

So, in that way, I think that they actually shared equal spotlight with Kidambi Srikanth, H S Prannoy and Lakshya Sen this time. Given how they played they definitely deserve it.

My heart lies a little bit more with the with the doubles in general. I hope that this can give a little bit of a spark to doubles culture, if you can call it that, in India. Hopefully with time, we will see more doubles champions, like we have seen with the singles over the last decade in India.

IMAGE: Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy's superb performances were instrumental in India winning a historic first-ever Thomas Cup title on May 15, 2022. Photograph: Badminton Association of India/Twitter

What is it about the Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy combination that makes them click?

They obviously have some force on court. Satwik has got one of the best back courts in the world, meaning that he has got a huge smash, he is good at covering the midcourt.

And Chirag, he has some speed, he is the creator on court, and can actually set up the game and set up the attack.

So, overall they have like a really venomous attack.

And it's not really possible for anyone in the world to set up a good defence against Satwik and Chirag.

When you compete at the highest level, you need something that you are better at than your opponents, that can either be a tactical thing -- you can be tactically better than your opponents -- you could be physically stronger, you can be better in defence, you can be better on racquet skills or something like that.

You need something where you are better than your opponents and then trying to catch up on the remaining parameters.

Satwik and Chirag have a better attack than most of the other doubles teams, they are at least in sub-two if not top-one in the world with the best attack. They need to build the other layers and become like even better in defence, better in the drive situation and serving-receiving.

So these are the things that we are working on. But definitely yeah, they have the potential of becoming the best doubles pair in the world because if I was saying one of the best pairs in the world I would say they already reached that level.

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