Badminton might not yet command the following in Indian that the gentleman’s game of cricket does. But it is fascinating that it indeed has been shuttlers who are responsible for bringing in a host of sporting laurels into the country. Be it the likes of Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu who brought Olympic glory or the legendary Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand who have been fueling present talents, Indian badminton is a tale of talents who have been making their presence felt in the world stage for long. From revamping old standards to setting newer ones, from deriving from inspiration to being an inspiration in itself, Indian badminton has come a long way. A host of Indian badminton players have for long now been remarkable presences in the world stage, and continue to scale newer heights in the same.
Here are some such famous Indian badminton players in India who have been setting the bar really high for the generations to come-
Undoubtedly the name who furthered the pursuit of badminton in India, Prakash Padukone is one of the most recognisable players in the circuit of the sport. The first Indian to win the All England Open Badminton Championships, Padukone had also been the first from the country when it came to being numero uno in the sport internationally.
With his father Ramesh Padukone as the Secretary of the Mysore Badminton Association, badminton was a natural calling for a young Prakash. His dedication for the sport meant that even as a kid, Padukone claimed titles at the Karnataka State Junior Championship. With continued success at the national circuit both in the junior’s and senior’s category, Padukone paved the way for greater international recognition as he put India on the map in the realm of global badminton.
At the 1978 Commonwealth games, Padukone clinched the men’s singles gold while also claiming the Danish Open and the Swedish Open a couple of years later. 1980 definitely was the year of the legend Prakash Padukone, a stance that was strengthened with his success in the All England Championship. At the world’s oldest and most prestigious badminton tournament, Padukone scripted history by claiming the men’s singles title. Thereafter it was all about Padukone asserting his dominance with numerous wins including a bronze in the 1983 World Championships.
The man so dedicated to the sport that he is, Padukone’s pursuit for making India a global badminton superpower led him to be actively involved with it even after his retirement in 1991. He served as the chairman of the Badminton Association of India while also coaching the Indian national badminton team from 1993 to 1996. Padukone also has been instrumental in founding the Olympic Gold Quest, an initiative to promote Olympic sports in India.
The first Indian badminton player to have won an Olympic medal marks the jewel in the crown of celebrated badminton player Saina Nehwal’s many distinctions. Inarguably the most prolific among famous badminton players in the country who much like Prakash Padukone has been instrumental in giving the female presence in the sport a major boost, Nehwal has to her name numerous firsts.
The first and only female Indian to have attained the world No. 1 ranking, the first Indian to have reached the final of the BWF World Championships, the first and only Indian to have won the BWF World Junior Championships, the first Indian to win a Super Series title as also the first Indian to win two singles gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, Saina’s exploits in badminton stands unparalleled.
Nehwal has also represented India in three editions of the Olympics while being the first and only Indian to have won at least one medal in every BWF major individual event with a metal each at the Olympics, the BWF World Championships, and the BWF World Junior Championships. With another legend of the game Pullela Gopichand as her mentor, Nehwal is not just one of the famous names in badminton in India, she also is one of the most successful Indian players ever.
P. V. Sindhu
The first ever Indian to become the World Badminton Champion, P. V. Sindhu is a name who along with compatriot Saina Nehwal is largely responsible for the growing stature of the sport in the country. Her silver medal winning feat at the 2016 Summer Olympics and her gold clinching exploits at the 2019 World Championships firmly established her dominance over the sport, thereby making her indeed a phenomenal produce for Indian badminton. With a stupendous five World Championships medals to her credit, Sindhu is another very worthy name who has been coaching under Pullela Gopichand and has been claiming titles ever since.
Sindhu’s command over the game that has been her forte even as a 10 year old saw her becoming the first Indian to win two back-to-back medals in the BWF World Badminton Championships, the youngest and first female individual Indian to bag an Olympic Silver medal, the first Indian to win the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals and also the historic clincher of a silver medal in the Women’s Singles Badminton event at the 2018 Asian Games.
The man who has been scripting the exploits of the present day Indian badminton players and himself a prolific player of the sport of his times is Pullela Gopichand. The second Indian after his mentor Prakash Padukone to have won the All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001 , Gopichand has also been a five time consecutive National champion from 1996 to 2000. Presently the Chief National Coach of the Indian badminton team, Gopichand has to his credit quite a number of titles at both the national and the international level. The guiding force behind exceptional talents like Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu, Kidambi Srikant and quite some others, Gopichand has been bestowed with a number of honours and awards for his unparalleled contribution to Indian badminton.
The first among Indian badminton players to qualify for two events in the Olympics, Jwala Gutta is famous in the sporting circuit as a sportsperson who exhibited ample grit and determination to emerge at the fore of the game. Her phenomenal exploits in the sport in the doubles segment have established her as a prominent figure largely responsible for putting India on the global badminton stage.
A sensational gold medal in the women’s doubles at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, a first for India, had Gutta and her partner Ashwini Ponappa etch their names in the history books. The historical golden run continued the following year as well for the pair of Gutta and Ponappa as they became the first Indians to ensure a medal at the World Badminton Championships.
A bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Championships followed by another historic bronze at the Uber Cup in the same year and the title win at the 2015 Canada Open Grand Prix as well as a quarter-final finish at the World Championships augured well for the might of Gutta as she broke into the top 10 of the BWF World Championship for the first time in history. This place among the top 10 also meant that Jwala Gutta became the first ever player to be ranked among the top 10 in both the doubles and the mixed doubles category.
The national badminton champion for a record equaling nine consecutive times, Aparna Popat is another of the famous players of the sport in India. Her credentials as one of the earliest female players to have dominated the game encompass a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in 1996 and a total of four medals in three Commonwealth Games appearances. Popat has also been a two times Olympian while having participated once at the Asian Games and being a runner up of the French Open tournament. With a career high ranking of 16, Popat also had been one of the 17 participants, and the lone Indian to be selected from around the world for the Global Sports Mentoring Programme.
Nandu M. Natekar
The first Indian player to win an international title as early as in 1956, Nadu Natekar has been a former badminton national champion. Voted the most popular sportsperson of India in 1961, it was indeed Natekar’s expertise in badminton that made him so famous among the crop of players emerging from the country at that time. With a last 8 presence in the All England Championships apart from winning the National level Men’s Singles and Doubles Championship as well as Mixed Doubles multiple times, Natekar had been one of the earliest stars of Indian badminton and a very worthy recipient of the first Arjuna Award institute in 1961.
Kidambi Srikanth has to his credit the maximum number of super series titles among the Indian male players to be one of the most famous and eminent badminton talents of India. In fact Srikanth rose to become the world’s numero uno badminton player in 2018 thereby asserting his dominance once again over the sport that he had been ruling for long. Kidambi had been the first Indian male to win gold at the 2015 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold as also the Indonesia Super Series in 2017.
Beginning with a silver in mixed doubles and bronze in doubles at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2011, Srikanth won the men’s singles title at the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold in 2013, the 2014 China Open Super Series Premier title, the 2015 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and also the India Open Super Series title. Together with compatriot Sai Praneeth, Srikanth Kidambi created history by becoming the first ever Indian pair to enter the finals of a ranking event in badminton.
An eight time National Badminton Champion, Syed Modi’s exploits in the game continues to inspire millions but what remains more a matter of memory is his shocking murder that counts among one of the crime cases that continue to remain unsolved to this date. The national champion both at the junior and the senior levels, Modi also won the men’s singles Gold at the 1982 Commonwealth Games while claiming the Austrian International and the USSR International titles. Syed Modi also had won the bronze medal at the men’s singles event during the 1982 Asian Games prior to his Commonwealth heroics.
With a BWF World Championships bronze, each of a Commonwealth Games gold, silver and bronze, an Asian Championships bronze, a couple each of South Asian Games gold and silver in her kitty, Ashwini Ponappa is another of the more famous names in the circuit of badminton players in India. Also an Olympian courtesy her appearance at the 2016 edition of the event in Brazil, Ponappa has also been the winner of the women’s doubles title at the 2015 Canada Open. Along with Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponappa is the first Indian pair and only the second overall to win a medal at the World Championships.
B. Sai Praneeth
B. Sai Praneeth is another Indian badminton player who became the first Indian male shuttler in 36 years to win a bronze medal in the BWF World Championships when he achieved the feat in 2019. Praneeth also has to his name the bronze of the 2010 BWF World Junior Championships while being the winner of the 2016 Canada Open, the 2017 Thailand Open and the 2017 Singapore Open.
Among the many famous badminton players that India has produced, Parupalli Kashyap is a definite presence. Kashyap became the first Indian male player to reach the quarter-finals of men’s singles at an Olympics event during the 212 event in London. A men’s singles gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games followed just a couple of years later while earlier Kashyap had played a crucial role in India winning a silver medal in the Team Event of the 2010 edition of the Games. Among the top singles male players in the country, what makes Kashyap’s pursuance of and achievements in the game even more a matter of laudable determination is that he continued undeterred even while battling a severe case of asthma.
He might have made it count as a mentor now, being the National chief coach of the Indian badminton squad for several years but even as one of the famous players, Vimal Kumar earned quite a few accolades. A two time consecutive winner of the prestigious French Open tournament in 1983 and 1984, Kumar also went on to claim the title at the Welsh International twice in 1988 and 1991. An Olympian who represented the country at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Kumar had also been ranked among the top 20 badminton players in the world during the prime of his distinguished career.
The first Indian player to participate at the Olympics in the mixed doubles when he took to the court in the 2012 event in London, Valiyaveetil Diju or V. Diju has been a key doubles player of the country who has been redefining the badminton scenario in India since long. Together with Jwala Gutta, Diju made for a formidable pair who went on to create history with a number of firsts. As a part of the first ever Indian pair to enter the quarterfinals of the World Championship as also the first Indian badminton mixed doubles pair to win a Grand Prix Gold title, Diju rose in prominence as a master player of the sport in India. He also won the mixed team bronze medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games while also being a finalist of the World Super Series Final in 2009.
The captain of the Indian badminton team for the World Men Team’s Championships, Anup Sridhar’s playing career is one replete with achievements. A semi finalist at the German Open and the Asian Badminton Championships as well as the quarterfinalist at the Thailand Open and also the 2007 World Championships, Sridhar had also been a participant at the men’s singles event of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Sridhar had also emerged winner at the 2005 Hungarian International and the 2013 Czech International tournaments.