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From injury to titles, 2012 has been Kashyap's year

The Mayan theory had predicted the end of the world in 2012. The world survived and in the case of P Kashyap it actually came alive as the shuttler began transforming his potential into success after years of hard work.

On Sunday, the 26-year-old became the first Indian men’s singles player to win a Grand Prix Gold title when he lifted the Syed Modi trophy after a marathon 72 minute encounter against Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.

The signification of the triumph can be gauged from the fact that this is India’s first major men’s singles title since chief national coach Pullela Gopichand brought home the All England crown in 2001. Though the Syed Modi GP gold triumph may not be in the same league in terms of stature, for Kashyap, it was an apt end to the year which began with an injury and ended in his first ever title on the international circuit.

In the run up to the Olympics, the trainee of the Gopichand Badminton Academy became the first Indian men’s singles player in over a decade to scalp a top-5 Chinese player. Getty Images

It was in the same tournament last year that the Indian Oil employee had suffered a hamstring injury and was unsure about what 2012 would pan out for him as he and Ajay Jayaram were locked in a one-on-one battle for a spot in the Indian squad for the London Olympic Games.

However, a series of a good results and a lucky break cleared his path for an Olympic berth and Kashyap hasn’t looked back since then.

In the run up to the Olympics, the trainee of the Gopichand Badminton Academy became the first Indian men’s singles player in over a decade to scalp a top-5 Chinese player when he upset world number two Chen Long in the Indonesia Super Series and then went on to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games.

Despite the Olympic performance there were some doubters who believed that Kashyap was not the best in the country as he was yet to win the National title and even his flight to London was possible only because of the “timely” walkover by China’s Chen Jin in the must win encounter for the Indian.

The world number 20 responded to that criticism with an emphatic triumph over all his opponents at the Senior Nationals in October and the Syed Modi triumph should well and truly end the debate over whether he is currently the best men’s singles player in the country.

In fact, Kashyap has been used to questions being raised over his ability to become a top badminton player since childhood given that the scrawny kid, who began playing badminton at the age of 11, was perennially sick and struggled to go through an entire week of competition without breaking down.

His condition was diagnosed to be asthmatic and even today, the 26-year-old has to guard against an asthma attack during tournaments. But Kashyap has overcome that hurdle with proper medication (he has to get a special exemption for it from WADA)  and a disciplined lifestyle. Today, team physio Kiran Challagunda’s assessment that the 25-year-old in one of the fittest players on the international circuit speaks volumes of his work ethics and commitment.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is a very busy player on the court and spends a lot of energy in every rally thanks to his style of play and penchant for playing the jump smashes and drops.

That has meant that injuries have been constant companions of Kashyap and he has slowly but surely learnt to cope with them. In the run up to the Syed Modi tournament, Kashyap preferred to retire hurt in the Macau Open and Hong Kong Open matches due to an abdomen strain and that choice helped him recover well enough to launch a title bid in Lucknow.

At 26, Kashyap has just started to mature as a player and every Indian badminton fan would hope that he goes on to build on the 2012 success and win many more titles in the future.