This is as big as it gets in badminton, says P. Gopichand

Q. You have been part of several Thomas Cup campaigns as a player and coach. What does this victory mean for you?

For all of us in Indian badminton, it was a dream to see our team winning the competition. We have had individual wins — Prakash Padukone won the All England Open — but there was always that dream of going higher. When I was playing, just qualifying for the finals of this competition was a big thing. In the world of badminton, this is as big as it gets. It is a very big achievement.

Q. What does it mean for Indian badminton?

It means many things for Indian badminton. For us, when we go back to the world stage as a team, we will be looked upon very differently. That element of being scared [of India] will be there.

Q. What was key to the team doing so well this time?

There is a lot more bench strength. We have Lakshya Sen, and with K. Srikanth and HS Prannoy following up, it is a very strong team. They got good preparation time before the event. [Doubles players] Satwik (Satwiksairaj Rankireddy) and Chirag (Shetty) are also in top form.

Srikanth was winning all his matches in the past few days and Prannoy was very consistent in winning key matches. There were many who questioned Prannoy’s place in the team, so personal pride was at stake for him. Our doubles pair, too, wanted to play for pride. The feeling of togetherness in the team also helped a lot.

Q. The emergence of Satwik and Chirag as a strong doubles pair has been key to India’s fortunes.

They have had some tough matches in the tournament, but they stuck to their plan and pulled off the wins even when the chips were down. They kept their nerves, did not lose heart and finished the job.

Q. Did the absence of foreign coaches affect your preparations? Mathias Boe joined the doubles team only weeks before the tournament.

Our singles players have not had a foreign coach for a long time, and they were perhaps better off. Till last October, there was no coach at all. Some of them started arriving from November. Mathias, I think, is a good addition. His presence on the court is good for the team, especially for Chirag who likes to talk to someone during breaks in matches.

Q. Was there a lot of pressure on Lakshya?

Lakshya was fighting back and it was really good to see. It is a very, very big achievement for him. At one point during the tournament, things did not look very positive for him, but he just needed to play to his strengths. Against Anthony Ginting in the finals, the way he came back after losing the first set was really good to see.

Q. How do you look at the postponement of the Asian Games? Is it good or bad for the team?

I hope it happens as early as possible. I would love to see our team win gold at the Asian Games.

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