A day after the 40th anniversary of Prakash Padukone’s glorious All-England Championships Triumph in Birmingham in 1980, former national coach TPS Puri looked back at the historic feat, explaining how the decks were stacked against the Indian shuttler, who was up against Liem Swie King of Indonesia, considered the best in the world back then. Also Read - 'To The Greatest Off-Screen Hero': Deepika Padukone Wishes Dad Prakash Padukone on His 65th Birthday With Adorable Childhood Pic
King was the top seed while Padukone was a joint-third heading up to the summit clash. Smashing opponents in his way to the final, Padukone conquered King, who was humbled 15-3 and 15-10 on March 23, 1980. Also Read - Throwback: How Prakash Padukone Led Badminton Revolution in India With All England Open Title in 1980
“King’s game was all about rhythm, pace and power. Hard smashes, deft net dribbles that shut out the opponent. But Prakash had a game plan all along. He never allowed King to play his natural game. He set the pace, pinned King to the backcourt with lobs and clears that kissed the baseline, used his cross-court half smashes and a razor-sharp net game as effective counters. King never knew what hit him,” Puri, who was with Padukone during the tour, told Times of India. Also Read - Prakash Padukone Shaping Champions of Today And Tomorrow
The All-England is perhaps one of the biggest badminton events, almost a Wimbledon equivalent of sorts. Padukone entered the tournament high on the confidence of winning the Danish Open and the Swedish Open titles. In an ideal scenario, a player would usually be burned out playing too many matches, but Puri spotted an unmatched zeal in Padukone to keep going on.
In the road to the final, Padukone beat 15-7, 15-12, hammered Indonesia’s Luluk Hadiyanto 15-0, 15-10, annihilated Swend Pri of Denmark 15-4, 15-4 to enter the semifinal, where he beat Frost Hansen convincingly 15-8, 15-10.
Unfortunately for Padukone and Puri, since they were staying away from the Wembley Stadium their low daily allowance would not allow them to take a cab. Walking wasn’t an option either since it would tire Padukone before his matches. Hence, the duo took the Underground tube to the venue.
“We used to walk around 400 metres to the Tottenham Court Road station, change two trains and walk almost a kilometre in cold weather to the venue. I tried to convince the Indian High Commission officials to provide Prakash with transport, but they had their own constraints. But Prakash made no fuss about it. He was too focused on his game,” Puri said.