Kidambi Srikanth has transformed Indian badminton into a force to reckon with. The ‘Giant Killer’ has enabled the sport in the country emerge from the shadow of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. The girls who have also been among country’s leading female brand ambassadors. Srikanth, riding on his consistent success, is now heading towards that commercial glory.
The brands have started chasing the shy Guntur boy. For him badminton is the sole priority. In an exclusive chat with InsideSport, India’s latest badminton icon talked about various aspects of his career. Here are the excerpts:
InsideSport: Three finals in as many weeks. Indonesia and Australian Super Series titles. No Indian man has done it before. How do you see this tremendous success?
Kidambi Srikanth: I am very happy with the way I played that 2 weeks. Indonesia and Australia had the best to compete against. In the process we succeeded in establishing India’s might in men’s singles too. The wins over the fancied opponents culminating into titles are always special. This gives you tremendous confidence. I would take this as a confidence booster going into the World Championships.
IS: There are felicitations, honours, respect, rewards and dates with the who is who of the nation. PM tweets to congratulate you. How has life changed over the past two weeks?
KS: Honestly speaking there hasn’t been any change. It’s same practice schedule, same game and I am the same person. However, the success has helped me meet some great people. It is an honour to meet these special people and I am very happy for that. Beyond that it is same commitment to the game and I am the same student of this great sport.
IS: You are the only Indian to win two Super Series and two Super Series Premier events. The only Indian to get the better of the likes of Lin Dan and Chen Long. This success will bring a load of expectations every time you step into a tournament. What does this changed scenario mean to you? A renewed energy or more pressure?
KS: When representing your country you always play to win and your fans and countrymen always want you to win. With success that hope turns into expectations. Definitely people will want me to win every match I play and I will do my best to make the nation proud. I think all their support and wishes will help me do better. Competitive sport is a continuous process to be better than your previous best.
IS: World championship is the next big thing on your plans? How are the preparations. Since, you will be the man to beat for, is there any change in training schedule?
KS: World Championships will be another big platform. I do not believe in setting targets. I only aim at giving my best. Even for the World Championships I am not setting any targets for myself. I only want to play well and be consistent throughout the tournament. You progress match by match. Each match, each opponent is important and special.
IS: You are the best in the business, now. When did you find ‘I am the best’ confidence in yourself? How did you set your goals and what was your roadmap to achieve those goals?
KS: Honestly speaking, I never thought I am the best. I rather work on to always give my best in every match I play. That’s it. As I told you I work on being better than my previous best. The roadmap has always been training with Gopi Sir at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad.
IS: In spite of immense talent, win over Lin Dan, Olympic appearances, there was little recognition and support from the corporate. But now you have emerged as the best in the business with consistent success. In fact you are among the best sporting brand icons in the country now? How are brands and sponsors responding to this unprecedented success?
KS: I will like to thank my employers Indian Oil, Bank of Baroda and Yonex for supporting me in this journey. My job is to play. I am being managed by Baseline Ventures for commercial aspect of this journey. They take care of all my commercials. I don’t think much about it. However, you will hear some announcements in the next few months.
IS: The success will bring added responsibility for commercial commitments. How are you looking at striking balance between the business and sporting aspects of your career?
KS: It’s always the game first for me. For everything else there are managers. There is no compromise with badminton. Whatever comes my way will only and only be because of my game. Everything else can wait. In each sport there are windows when you are free for personal commitments.
IS: You are offered a Group One officer’s post. You have pledged that you will continue to play for your State? Can we see a future Andhra Pradesh bureaucrat in Srikanth?
KS: I am thankful to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Shri Chandrababu Naidu jee. Right now I am focusing on the World Championships. It is an honour to serve your State in any capacity. I will take a decision on the (State Government) offer very soon.
IS: What is your daily training routine? Diet and fitness regime?
KS:Training is the top priority. In fact it is the only priority. Gopi Sir is very particular about training, fitness and diet regime. There is no compromise on that. I am training for six to seven hours every day, split between morning and evening sessions.
IS: It was said that in spite of extreme talent you were a ‘lazy’ prodigy on the court. You would love to play doubles as it would need less effort. And, now there is a close to 6-8 hour practice schedule every day? How did this transformation happen?
KS: Yes, in the beginning I was like that. I think, it was the love towards sport and the will to become a better player that changed me. Now I enjoy this the most.
IS: Will you agree that Indian badminton has attained a level that can be the platform to make us the Super Power of global badminton?
KS: I think we are doing well in the international circuit but there is still a lot more to achieve and improve before we can say that. There needs to be a continuity in this success and emergence of the top notch players.
India stands a good chance of winning a medal at the forthcoming World Championships. Srikanth drives India’s hope for the prestigious event slated from August 21 to 27 at Glasgow.