Let me narrate a dream.
You are in the semi-final of a Super Series Premier event. You just got there after beating the reigning world # 1. What is more, you are up 19-16 in the 3rd set. And then, in your dream, something happens. A string on your tight high tension racquet breaks. Snap. You realise this might not be a dream. While you are walking back to get a new one, you are now aware of noises around you. The nerds among us have a word for it; Hypnagogia i.e. waking dream. Before you know it, the score is 19-21, and you wake up - An also ran who has never won a super series.
This is the reality of Parupalli Kashyap. An ever affable and talented work horse, his career is littered with similar stories. In the 2012 London Olympics, he went as far as the Quarterfinals, the best performance by any Indian thus far. In almost every BWF event (of last one year), he has been a perennial fixture of the final 32 or better. Only once did he cross the Semi-finals to win the trophy - Syed Modi cup in Lucknow India. He did so by beating a younger, more dynamic, and arguably tired Kidambi Shrikanth. That, however, is a story for another article.
So how does a player as talented as Kashyap fall short, time and again, at crunch moments? In those situations, it is not about skill anymore. The game becomes a psychological warfare. To play a drop or a smash, to expect your opponents move, to be ready and be unfazed, to be in the game, to go for the $ 1 M pot of World series. Summing it all in one word - Mental Toughness. It is what seperates the champions from wannabes.
An interesting tit-bit here is that Kashyap is an avid poker player ala Rafael Nadal. He knows how to defeat demons within himself - He overcame Ashtma. We are betting he will defeat the mental demon in the upcoming world series championships and come out a winner.
Our team wishes him all the best