Thailand’s Pisit Poodchalat outfoxes the Indian in straight games in badminton final
Dev S Sukumar. Bangalore
His son’s campaign didn’t quite end in a fairytale, but Sunil Kumar is hoping Prannoy can at least make his other wish come true. Prannoy’s sister will be married on August 28th – and, well – “she’s his only sister, after all”.
Still, the silver medal would do. HS Prannoy’s remarkable run at the Youth Olympics in Singapore ended just short of a gold medal; the Indian fell at the final hurdle to Thailand’s Pisit Poodchalat in straight games, 21-15 21-16 on Thursday.
“I played my best, but it just didn’t work today,” Prannoy told DNA over phone from Singapore. “The first part of the first game was crucial. I went in playing at a high pace, but he was returning everything and took the lead. Then I thought I should rally a bit more, but by that time it was too late. In the second game, I played from the back of the court because there was strong drift in the hall. He kept making unexpected returns. I think he was tiring towards the end, but I could not force a long enough rally to tire him out. He played intelligently. Perhaps one long rally would’ve made the difference.”
The loss takes nothing away from what has been one of the biggest accomplishments in Indian badminton. Just three months after earning a singles bronze medal at the World Junior Championships, Prannoy proved he is among the next generation’s brightest prospects – taking out the top seeded Korean, Kang Ji Wook, in the semifinals in a long match.
Son of a Hindu-Muslim couple, Prannoy learnt his basics from his father Sunil Kumar, an Air Force officer who played badminton as recreation. Stints with two Sports Council coaches – Sivaramakrishnan and ML Narendran – later, he was selected to the India squad for the World Junior Championships at Pune in 2008.
Prannoy has since risen up the ranks, troubling the country’s top seniors, and winning a bronze at the World Juniors in April this year. The 18-year-old plays the quick, attacking game of the Gopichand school; he is also one of the most thoughtful and articulate players on the Indian circuit, and likes to analyse matches and playing styles.
As he approached Thursday’s final, he would dwell on his opponent, who had beaten him in 2009: “He’s a rally player, very fit. There’s plenty of drift in the hall, one side is very fast, so you can’t lift the shuttle. I have to keep it at the net all the time, and concentrate on the rally. I’m fit now. The quarters and semis were tiring, but I didn’t feel the fatigue. But you can’t rally here. I have to keep it simple. He’s playing well; once I read him early in the match, I’ll have to change my game. I’m going in without any nervousness – I’m not going to worry too much.”
As for his father – his first coach – he’s hoping his son can make it to his home in Thiruvanathapuram by the 28th of this month. “He’s home only for his exams,” Sunil Kumar said. “He even missed the engagement of his sister. I’m hoping he can make it for the marriage.”