For sports lovers in the country, June 18, 2017, was a delightful day filled with quite a few high-profile events. There was Kidambi Srikanth playing a Super Series Premier final in Indonesia, India Men's hockey team were to play arch-rivals Pakistan in the Hockey World League semi-final. Indeed, the most talked about sporting event of the third Sunday of last month was the ICC Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan.
However, in what turned out be an anti-climax, Virat Kohli's men suffered a massive 180-run defeat to their arch-rivals, leaving fans massively disappointed. Much was expected of the Men in Blue as they had started their title defence in Birmingham on June 4 with a comprehensive win over Sarfraz Ahmed and his boys and not many expected the lowest-ranked side in the tournament to come up with such a dominant performance on the big night.
Reactions from all quarters poured in and quite a lot was immediately said about how the Indian hockey team, who thrashed Pakistan 7-1 in a group stage encounter, and Srikanth, who finished at the top step of the podium in Jakarta, had lifted the spirits of the country after the cricket team's crushing defeat.
The long lost love for hockey suddenly showed up and a few even labelled Srikanth as the new hero of Indian sports as the shuttler went on to win his second straight Superseries title -- this time in Australia, a week after his Jakarta triumph.
Comparisons cropped up between Srikanth and Kohli and there were reports claiming the former's feat is worthy enough of making badminton the national sport. Well, there was nothing wrong in celebrating the success of the shuttler. In fact, it was heartening to see people in a cricket-crazy country noticing the efforts of someone whose name was not Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni.
However, the comparisons that followed the win might just show why we do not understand what it means to represent the country at the highest level, regardless of the sport. It was not right on the part of fans to notice and rave about the shuttler's win only to make up for their lost pride after the Indian cricket team's loss.
Srikanth, when asked about what he thinks of the comparisons, says he does not want to be compared to Kohli or anyone else from the sporting fraternity. The 24-year-old shuttler ridicules such notions and says sportsmen are prone to having a few bad days and that they can't be expected to win all the time, which according to him, was the case with Kohli and his men on the fateful day, last month.
"I do not want to compare myself to anyone you know. Everyone is working hard in their respective games. We performed really well throughout the Champions Trophy and even Kohli was top class throughout. He is also a human being, he is not a machine and we can't expect him to score in every game," Srikanth said, as quoted by India Today.
He added: "I believe every human being has a bad day and unfortunately for us it came in the final. Otherwise, they performed so well and I don't feel the need to compare."
Yes, Srikanth is right in requesting to be left alone. The 24-year-old is currently at the peak of his career and he has not put a wrong foot in the recent past, and went on to reach three Superseries finals and win two of them, beating the likes of world number one Son Wan Ho and reigning Olympic champion Chen Long in the process.
Comparing him to cricket superstar Kohli might only prove detrimental to the young shuttler, who is well-placed to reach greater heights in the coming months. Higher expectations will lead to more pressure on the Guntur lad and in a highly competitive individual sport like badminton, weight on your shoulders is the last thing you want.
Also, it is quite impossible in a sport like badminton to keep winning every time you step on the court. Indian badminton chief coach Pullela Gopichand, while talking about PV Sindhu's prospects in the coming months, shed light on the impracticality of having Kohli-esque consistency in the racket sport.
Srikanth's next assignment is the upcoming BWF World Championships, starting August 21. The in-form shuttler is among the favourites and is expected to pose stiff challenges to the big names of badminton at the annual world meet. Win or lose, it is important as sports fans to keep extending support for the four-time Superseries winner as he has already put Men's singles badminton, which was in the shadow of Saina Nehwal and Sindhu, under the spotlight once again.