Pain. Panache. Perseverance. And one Prannoy.
Perhaps words, alliterative or not, will fall short to define the miracle of what we just witnessed at the Thomas Cup 2022 semi-finals between India and Denmark, as things really went down to the wire in an epic series of clashes before India won the tie 3-2.
However, once more, it was one man who clearly stood out and like the trusted warhorse he is, Prannoy got the job done and booked India their very first ticket to the finals of the Thomas Cup in 73 years.
Entering as underdogs, India took the Thomas Cup 2022 by storm and much of it is due to Prannoy’s finishing touches, no matter the odds, as India will get ready to face 14-time Thomas Cup champions Indonesia in the finals on Sunday.
Prannoy pursues, Prannoy persists
Limping and writhing in pain, after a nasty fall in the first game, but with a focussed look in his eyes, guided by the occasional quiet and not-so-quiet fist pumps and roars, the World No. 23 HS Prannoy acted like a man on a mission and steeled his nerves to do the sheer impossible task and earned India this piece of history, not letting the hopes of an entire nation go in vain.
The alarm bells had gone off when HS Prannoy slipped and fell during the opening game against Denmark’s World No. 13 player, Rasmus Gemke. Dashing near the net for a return, Prannoy badly twisted his foot and fell on the court, making all of us gasp – ‘Oh, no! Let this not be a turning point for India! ‘
Immediately, an on-court medic was summoned and Prannoy, who already has a long history of injuries, received attention on the court and after some pain-relieving sprays and a pain-killer later, Prannoy was back on his feet, a look of anguish in his eyes – he knew what was needed on him, but it wasn’t going to be easy, especially with Gemke charging that way.
Yet just after the mid-game break in the first game where Gemke had a lead, Prannoy roared back to take a trio of quick points and one knew that it would be too early to dash all hopes right then.
What followed after that first game will perhaps be remembered forever in the history of Indian badminton as moments like these are rare and truth be told, they no longer make the likes of Prannoy who can stand their ground, produce such quality badminton and withstand the pressure and the nerves and get the win.
Yet that is simply what he did – ignoring the pain biting his ankle, Prannoy kept his eyes on the birdie, moving smartly and placing his shots deftly to derail Gemke’s momentum completely in Game 2 and at one point led 11-1 in the mid- game break of the second game.
Surreal, again? It sure was.
Soon the errors started creeping in for Gemke as his returns found the net and the one-way traffic really started flowing from Prannoy who was not to be denied as the Indian team at the Impact Arena roared loudly – ‘HSP! HSP! HSP! ‘
And in 21-9, HS Prannoy took Game 2 and we were into a deciding set in the deciding match of the tie and the nerves had all but escalated to a saturation point that was in itself, unnerving.
But if one person retained his cool, kept patient and got about business as usual – it was Prannoy once again as he started with a 4-0 in the decider and rattled Gemke visibly.
After that, there was hardly any ruffling Prannoy as he got the dream start to the decider and he cut down on his errors significantly while Gemke, obviously feeling the nerves, committed one too many, awarding points on a roll to Prannoy.
Before long it was match point and on the second opportunity itself, the veteran player came out on top of a mind-boggling rally to create history once and for all for India, as for the second night in a row, the Impact Arena was overflowing with the Indian players, coaches and staff as they rushed to greet Prannoy, celebrating his heroics, creating a mad moment of euphoria to unfold and remember forever.
What started as a dream for this motley team of young and seasoned players, is now a reality as India is well into the finals of the Thomas Cup for the first time after a nerve-wracking finish against Denmark.
READ | Experience pays off: Warhorses Srikanth and Prannoy etch history for India at Thomas Cup
And if anyone has really stood out from this campaign so far from the team with an unbeaten streak after Srikanth – it is HS Prannoy, who will be remembered as the man who pursued and the man who persisted, despite all odds, proving time and again , that it will be a grave mistake to write him off just like that anytime soon, again.