Padukone: Losing his touch?Defending a title is a lot more difficult than winning it, as Prakash Padukone discovered in Hyderabad last month when he lost the Indian Masters Championship title he had won at Pune when it was introduced last year.Inevitably, as he prepares for the second World Cup Championship,,Padukone: Losing his touch?Defending a title is a lot more difficult than winning it, as Prakash Padukone discovered in Hyderabad last month when he lost the Indian Masters Championship title he had won at Pune when it was introduced last year.Inevitably, as he prepares for the second World Cup Championship, beginning in Kuala Lumpur on September 15, to defend the title he won in the inaugural championship last year, there is growing speculation at home on whether the Indian badminton ace has lost his touch.In the Indian Masters, Padukone bowed out in the quarter finals, losing to a virtual dark horse, the 19-year-old Indonesian Icuk Sugiarto. The 61-minute encounter began on an exciting note with Sugiarto matching Padukone point for point for the scores to reach level at eight in the first game. Then Padukone snatched four quick points for a slender lead but Sugiarto did not give in and took four points in a row to make the score 12-all Padukone, however, won the game 15-12.Early in the second game Sugiarto mastered Padukone as the Indian seemed shaky. At one stage when the score was 3-1, the service changed 10 times before Sugiarto, with some fine whipcord smashes, turned Padukone’s loose and hesitant returns into valuable points.The Indonesian won the second game 15-2 and asserted a crushing victory taking the clinching game 15-4. As the 2,000-odd spectators gave Sugiarto a five-minute standing ovation at the Fateh Maidan indoor stadium, a Padukone supporter remarked: “Andhra Pradesh is not his happy hunting ground. This is the third time he is losing here in as many years. He lost to Syed Modi at Vijayawada in 1980 and the Indonesian Sartika here last year.”advertisementFacile Victory: As for Sugiarto, he got past Swede Stefan Karlsson into the finals, but lost to fellow Indonesian Luis Pongoh in straight games. In fact, the 22-year-old Pongoh won the championship and collected the pound 1,500 (Rs 24,750) cash prize without losing a game.British bank clerk Jane Webster, 26, who threatened to carry back the largest sum from the championship, was content enough with the ladies singles title worth pound 1,350 (Rs 22,275).At the start of the five-day championship the Badminton Association of India (BAI) enthusiastically declared that there were more foreign internationals than at the Pune Masters, but the pound 14,000 (Rs 2,31,000) prize money contest lacked quality.Pongoh’s facile victory, notwithstanding his calibre – he had defeated Padukone twice – clearly showed that the Indian Masters is just an opportunity for the lesser lights to make some money and notch up a few points for the international ratings.The Chinese, who reached both the men’s and ladies’ singles finals at Pune, were conspicuously absent, as were all-England champion Morten Frost of Denmark and the temperamental Indonesian Liem Swie King.The canny Chinese, like the Indonesians, play a game packed with power and pace and are reportedly waiting for the Asian Games in November to convince the badminton world that their victory over Indonesia in the Thomas Cup finals earlier this year was no flash in the pan. They are undoubtedly a formidable side and Padukone runs into Luan Jin, the all-England losing finalist, in the pool matches at Kuala Lumpur and another Chinese challenger, Han Jian in the later knock-out stage of the World Cup contest.Jian will undoubtedly be keen to avenge his defeat by Padukone last year. The Indian ace is understandably cautious about his prospects; says he: “It is a tough fight with many challengers, and I hope to do well.”Dispute: With Danish clubs closed for the annual vacation in recent weeks, Padukone joined the Asiad probables at the Udaipur coaching camp to keep himself in competitive trim before the Indian Masters. His presence stirred the BAI to press for his inclusion in the Indian squad for the Asiad.There is no doubt that without Padukone India cannot hope for even a bronze medal against Malaysia, Japan and Thailand. The contest for the gold and silver medals will be between the Chinese and Indonesians.Ever since Padukone left for Copenhagen in December 1980 to play with a club, he has been branded as a professional and therefore cannot play for India in the Asian or Olympic Games. There is a debate on whether collecting money as a licensed player disqualifies him from being an amateur. The International Badminton Federation is taking the case up with the International Olympic Committee on the plea that a licensed player is closer to being an amateur than a professional. BAI President Fazil Ahmed feels confident that it has a good case. “If Padukone as a licensed player cannot take part, all those who play against him should also be debarred,” he remarked.advertisementThis peculiar logic of two wrongs making a right only show that the BAI has realised that without Padukone in the squad, it is more than likely that the Indian medal tally at the Asian Games in November will be without any contribution from the badminton contingent.
admin November 27, 2019 phmivhvv