After making India proud with his splendid show at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Kidambi Srikanth doubled the joy of the 1.25 billion nation by attaining the number one ranking rolled out by BWF in the second week of April. With this feat, he became the first Indian male shuttler to achieve the world number 1 ranking in badminton. Srikanth dethroned Denmark's Viktor Axelsen to achieve the numero uno spot in the BWF World Rankings last month. He is currently ranked third in the latest BWF Working Rankings.
In the past year or so, Srikanth's stature in world badminton has grown leaps and bounds courtesy his breathtaking performances in Superseries tournaments. His strong work ethics, zen-like ability to deal pressure, tough regime, and discipline became the talk of the town among the critics and the greats of the game.
In an exclusive chat with IndiaTV, the 25-year old revealed the name of his idol and expressed his desire to achieve excellence like him in the world of badminton. "I idolise Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the way he carries himself in pressure situations and maintains his composure is just brilliant and is something which I would like to imbibe in my personality," Srikanth told IndiaTV on the sidelines of a felicitation ceremony of the Commonwealth Games medal winning shuttlers by the Badminton Association of India (BAI).
"He is such a great inspiration for many people not just for me, many sportspersons around the world follow him because of his unmatchable attitude," he further added.
Speaking about the intricacies of his sport, Srikanth said, "In badminton - a smallest of the mistake can cost you a game and or a big trophy."
"One can learn a lot of things from Dhoni, I've learned how to remain focussed and maintain my cool head during big matches which helps in giving my best in crunch moments."
After beating the former legendary Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the final of Mixed Team event in CWG 2018, the Guntur-born shuttler lost against him in the finals of the men's singles event and in the quarter-finals of the Badminton Asia Championships in China's Wuhan.
But, with six Superseries titles and one CWG silver under his belt - there's no one doubting Srikanth's ability to rise to the occasion and give his best in big-ticket events.
Maintaining his strong stand about the fact that rankings are not his priority but it's more important to give consistent performances to stay at the top. Srikanth said, "I don't play for rankings. For me, it's important to do well in tournaments. Becoming World No.1 was a special feeling and I am happy about that," he added.
The ace shuttler also iterated the importance of staying fit and said it's on his priority list to remain in his best shape ahead of Badminton World Championships and Asian Games that are scheduled to be held in the next two to three months.
"Right now, there are four to five tournaments to play. I need to plan them in such a way that I can keep myself fit for the upcoming Asian Games and World Championships", he added.
During the chat, Srikanth came across as a confident young man with his head on his shoulders and is someone who is not shy of making a statement. On being compared to the greats like Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan, he was quick to reply that, "I would only like to remain the one and only Srikanth instead of anything else. I don't want to imitate anyone or neither I'm thinking about any past individual performances. I want to do well for the country and that remains my only goal."
Srikanth also feels the playing field at the upcoming Asian Games 2018 will provide a tougher challenge as compared to Gold Coast Games. He said, "In badminton as a sport, Asians are the dominating force, better than Europeans and everybody else. I personally feel Asian Games will be a big challenge if we prepare well for the coveted event we can definitely return with a good medal haul this time."
Lastly, the young shuttler credited his guru Pullela Gopichand and the whole support staff for changing the face of badminton in India. "I give all credit to the support staff and Gopi sir for this fantastic turnaround. In a sport like badminton particularly, the coach has a very big role to play and it is really motivating for players when you get such guidance from the best in the business," Srikanth signed off with a big smile.