Thursday, May 14, 2015

Interview: Winning big tourneys more important than rankings: Parupalli Kashyap

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Parupalli Kashyap is on a high after pulling off a semifinal finish at the recently-held Singapore Open after battling a bout of injuries earlier this year. The country’s most experienced men’s singles shuttler who once reached a ranking of six in April 2013, moved up one spot to 14 in the BWF rankings following his decent run at the Singapore Open.

The 28-year-old spoke in an exclusive interview.


Q: How do you assess your semifinal finish at the recent Singapore Open?

Well, I was happy with the way things went for me at the Singapore Open given the injuries I had this year. I upset the World No. 5 Son Wan Ho of Korea along the way and was pretty chuffed with my overall effort. I did not have a great run in the Malaysian Open and Sunrise Indian Open as I was staging a comeback from injuries and it was nice to get a good performance under my belt.

Q: Talking of injuries, how frustrating it is for a player to get into a rhythm and again sustain an injury and start everything from scratch?

It can be frustrating. I won the Indian Open at Lucknow in January and got injured. I had to miss two tournaments and I literally pushed myself to play in the All England Championship in March as it would have meant that I would miss three tournaments in a row. In fact, I would have attracted two hefty fines – one for missing three events in a row after giving entries and the other for missing the All England Championship after giving entries. The fines are in the range of $400-500 and it’s not easy when you sustain an injury.

Q: You were the country’s top ranked men’s singles players for a fairly long time until K Srikanth surpassed you last year. Is there any disappointment deep inside you in that regard?

Being the country’s top ranked shuttler is a status I would love to hold on, but I think it is equally important to win big-ticket tournaments, which counts in the long run. I’m really happy for Srikanth who has been in exceptional form over the last twelve months.

Q: There is a great deal of talk about rankings of shuttlers. Should a player focus on rankings?

Look, having a higher ranking helps you to gain entry into top tournaments, where you play against the world’s best. Winning tournaments likes Super Series Premier, Super Series, Grand Prix Gold or an Olympic or World Cup medal is even bigger than that. When you retire from the sport, people remember you more for what you have won and not the rankings.

Q: You made your senior international debut in 2005 and have been carrying on the mantle of being the country’s top singles player. Ten years on the circuit, how long do you think you can continue?

I’m pretty sure I can continue playing for another six-seven years at least. Let’s hope for the best.

Q: The likes of Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei have crossed thirty and are only getting stronger. Do you think it’s a myth that shuttler lose their prime form after reaching thirty?

It’s a myth actually. Lin Dan is 31 and is not only playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but is even keen to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Lee at 32 is also going strong.

Q: The Indian Badminton League has been a great boon for the sport in the country, but hasn’t been held since 2013.

The IBL is a great concept and although we are hearing that it will be held this year, I have no idea when it is going to be held this year. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Q: Saina Nehwal attracts so many corporate sponsors for her much deserved achievements on the court. Why is that our men shuttlers despite three of them featuring in the top-20 get a raw deal?

I think cricket is so big in India that when corporate houses think of sponsorship for male sportspersons, cricketers become their first option. If you look at all the sports channels, tell me how many of them are showing badminton coverage, probably Sony Six. The ICC World Cup is over, but Star Sports continue to show highlights of the same. Can we see the highlights of a badminton event being shown on a lot of channels after a tournament is over.
There is a need for extensive television coverage of badminton by sports channels in India. Unless that happens, I don’t think the situation will change much.
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