This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Breaking into the top-15 of the world rankings is a significant leap for any shuttler. And for India’s Parupalli Kashyap, it isn’t any different. The Hyderabad lad is experiencing an on-top-of-the-world feeling after scaling a career-high world ranking of 14, following his maiden singles triumph in the recently-concluded Syed Modi International badminton tournament in Lucknow.
Cracking the top-15 is a realistic target Kashyap had set his sights on at the beginning of 2012. “I started the year with a ranking of 27 and was confident of moving up in the ranking ladder. Honestly speaking, I had set myself a target of reaching the top-15 by the end of 2012, so it’s hugely satisfying to achieve what I’m have been aiming for the year 2012,” Kashyap told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
Kashyap’s arrival in the top-15 was largely possible due to his first singles crown in the Syed Modi International tournament. By his own admission, the biggest singles win did not get quite hog the newpaper headlines as the day happened to be the one-day international retirement of great Sachin Tendulkar. “Sachin is the God of Indian cricket. He deserves all the media attention. I don’t harbor any hard feelings but just thought many people probably might have forgotten the fact that the country’s top men’s singles player won his maiden international singles title,” Kashyap tossed a googly.
Indian Badminton has been taken to a new level by the exploits of Saina Nehwal but the Indian men haven’t been far behind performance-wise – as many as five Indians (Ajay Jayaram, Sourabh Varma, RMV Gurusaidutt and B Sai Praneeth besides Kashyap) are in the top-50. “Sania has had a phenomenal 2012 and I’m very happy for her – she deserves all the sponsorship deals for all the sweat and toil she is putting in. At the same time, sponsors must come forward to support the men’s shuttlers as well. I still don’t have a sponsor despite being the number one men’s singles player in the country over a long while now. I really hope cracking the top-15 would encourage the sponsors to knock my door,” he puts things in perspective.
The 25-year-old is pragmatic enough to realize that shuttlers got to make the most since a shuttler’s career is not very long. “We don’t make money like our cricketers. A shuttler’s career is short and we have to make the moolah during our playing days,” the Indian Oil Corporation A-Grade Officer said.
Kashyap became the first Indian men’s singles player to reach the Olympic quarterfinals last July-August. But he is a tad disappointed that his exploits at London failed to bring any cash awards. “The Central government had announced that a cash award of Rs 10 lakh would be given to all those athletes, who have entered the quarterfinals of their respective events, but till now I haven’t received any such award. Even the Andhra Pradesh Government hasn’t given me any cash award after my quarterfinal finish at the London Olympics,” he sang a sour tone.
There is a general feeling in Badminton circles that Kashyap has the ammunition to upset the best in the business, but has this knack of losing matches from winning positions. “I agree that I was losing matches from winning positions. It’s not that I become complacent after gaining a big lead. I think I’ve improved on this aspect. I’ve substantially tightened my game,” he observed.
The world number 14 believes he can be even more lethal if he works on his speed and defence. “I need to improve my percentage of speed. My defence is steady and if I can be more steady with my defensive game it will do a lot of good to my game.”
A product of the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, Kashyap owes everything to the PGBA for what he is today. “I have been training at the PGBA since its start in 2004-05. Gopi bhaiya has been doing a superb job with the youngsters. He starts his day at 4.00 am and has time for every shuttler irrespective of his reputation. I have benefited immensely from him,” he lavished praise on his guru.
The soft-spoken likes Gopichand for his straight talking ways. “What I like about Gopi bhaiya is that he is harsh. When I say harsh I mean he will come down hard on you if he sees you are doing anything wrong in training or not focusing as desired, but off the court he is a great friend. These qualities make him a great coach. I don’t even need to say this; look at his contribution to Indian badminton, see how many shuttlers have come through under his tutelage? Indian badminton has largely thrived because of him,” he gushes.
The first career singles win and the highest world ranking achieved, Kashyap is now looking forward to the upcoming international tournaments. “I will be participating in the Korean Open in January first up and hope to do well over there,” he concluded on an upbeat note.