Srikanth Kidambi, India’s top-ranked men’s singles badminton player, comes across as a reserved person when you put him in front of the camera but off it, he’s a live-wire. When the trainees at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, take a break from badminton, Srikanth and his friend and teammate at Bengaluru Raptors in the Premier Badminton League this season, are the ones leading the non-badminton activities. It is evident that other young players at the academy look up to Srikanth as well, trying to grab his attention whenever possible, wanting to play a few rallies or just get some tips from the senior pro.

In an interaction with Scroll, recorded before the start of the ongoing PBL season, Srikanth gives us insights into how his life away from the badminton court is, which sportpersons he idolises, the experience of forming new friendships at the league and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

How does a typical off day look for Srikanth?

Well, for me Sunday is the only off day. And I try and sleep the most. And if I can’t really sleep then I go out with my friends and probably play some tennis and TT just to unwind myself, that’s it. Or may be go to movies.

Things that you like about Srikanth and hate about Srikanth

(Laughs) Ok, I do forget things. It’s [something that I] both like and hate. Sometimes its good to forget and sometimes it’s not. So for example, when I am coming to the academy in the morning, my mother will ask me to get something, you know, and I will end up forgetting it. And there are times when people will scold me and I end up forgetting it, so which is a good sign.

Which Superhero you would want to be and why?

I definitely like to be myself, that’s it.

Why badminton?

I don’t know. I can’t really say that I am born to play the sport but I somehow liked playing the sport.

How good were you at studies?

Oh. I was very bad. I was very bad. That’s the reason I started playing the sport. If I was any good at studies then I would have been an engineer or something because my brother is already playing and my parents wouldn’t have definitely allowed me to get into sports.

Any advice you would like to give 10-year-old Srikanths?

I would really ask them to just enjoy. That’s it. Not to do anything and not to think of anything.

Sportspersons other than badminton you admire the most?

MS Dhoni and Roger Federer because both of them are really cool and they have done exceptionally well in their own field and they have handled pressure very well in their own field.

First big moment on a badminton court that you still remember?

Well, may be my first International Challenge title. That was my first ever international win in men’s singles. So I was really happy and that really helped me, you know, continue playing singles.

Goals for 2019

Haven’t really set anything. It’s more about doing well in the tournaments I play, that’s it. [No particular tournament] as such. It’s just about doing well in every tournament I play and i want to win every match I play. That’s it for me.

New season, new team (Bengaluru Raptors). What are your expectations from this season?

Well, on paper, I particularly feel that we have a very good team. And it’s just important for all of us to give our best on that match day. I think we can do that we definitely have a chance of winning this season.

How is PBL different from regular tour?

Well, the preparation still remains the same. Because this is a individual game we have own particular things, doing in our own way. For the league I feel it will be a little different. It’s like all the 10 players going to the stadium at the same time, cheering each other and then coming back at the same time. And then all those group lunch, group dinners and all those different things. I think its definitely a great experience and it is so much different from the regular tour.

Best friendship to come out of PBL for you?

Well, I think the last before year, I had Wing Ki Wong (Vincent) in my team and I had never spoken to him before that. And after that league he became a very good friend and you know it happened to me with a couple of players. There were couple of Hong Kong players and there were couple of Indonesian. I think that way PBL really gives you that opportunity to interact with the other country players.

You can watch the full video here: