43 years ago, the Indian team comprising skipper Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, Pradeep Gandhe, Sanjay Sharma, Uday Pawar and Leroy D’Sa had coincidentally defeated a strong Malaysia team reach the last four stage.
The Indian men’s badminton team scripted history by reaching the Thomas Cup semi-final after narrowly edging past Malaysia 3-2 on Thursday. It is the first time the Indian team has reached this stage since 1979. 43 years ago, the Indian team comprising skipper Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, Pradeep Gandhe, Sanjay Sharma, Uday Pawar and Leroy D’Sa had coincidentally defeated a strong Malaysia team composed of the formidable Sidek brothers-Misbun, Razif and Jalani. The tournament was first played in 1948-49, from then on it was held every three years until 1982, and since then has been held every two years.
The 1979 Thomas Cup was the 11th edition in which 21 teams from four regions participated. India was placed in the Asian Zone, along with Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia. As the defending champion, Indonesia skipped the qualifications and the first round, and played directly in the second round (semifinals) of the inter-zone tie. Political disputes played a major role in the 1978-79 edition of the competition. The People’s Republic of China’s entry into the International Badminton Federation (now the Badminton World Federation) had been delayed for years due to the Taiwan issue.
In 1978, PRC went on to form a rival badminton organisation and running its own world championship (for individual players) in 1979. The Asian zone all but disappeared in the political upheaval as four national teams including the strong Thailand either withdrew or were scratched from the competition. This left only India to visit Malaysia in a replay of their 1976 tie, which Malaysia had won. However, India on the strength of three wins by Padukone managed to avenge the 1976 loss in yet another closely contented tie. India won the Asian zone for the first time since 1955.
The inter-zone ties were hosted by defending champions Indonesia in Jakarta in late May and early June. India took on Denmark in the first semi-final tie. The young Danish side produced a spirited performance to get the better of the Asian side in the uncongenial climate. Veteran Svend Pri registered an inspiring victory against a much younger Indian star, Padukone to help his side enter the final. However, in the title-decider, Indonesia went on to win their seven Thomas Cup crown.
Once again, India will face Denmark for a maiden appearance in the final of the prestigious competition. The Indian team had to dig deep to get the better of Malaysia in the quarter-final stage. India did not have the best of starts after their highest-ranked men’s singles player at World No.9 – Lakshya Sen – lost the opening rubber to World No.6 Lee Zii Jia. As a result, the pressure was on Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy to get India back on track and the duo did just that to help the country level the score in the second fixture of the tie. They come up against the in-form Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin. The first game was an intense neck-to-neck tie, the second game was no different. However, the Indian duo went on to clinch the match 21-19, 21-15.
India then took the lead through Kidambi Srikanth, who is the world championships silver medallist. Srikanth, who is the world No.11, got the better of NG Tze Yong in straight games. He won the first game easily but had to dig deep to win the second. The final score read 21-11, 21-17 in the Indian’s favour. Malaysia, however, came back strongly by leveling the score in the fourth rubber. Aaron Chia and Teo Ee Yi won against the Indian duo of Krishna Prasad and Vishnuvardhan Panjala Yi 21-19, 21-17. HS Prannoy then made the most of the crucial final tie, as the Indian was far too good against Leong Jun Hao. Prannoy eased his way to victory in the next to clinch the match 21-13, 21-8, and secure India’s passage to the last-four stage.