75 years of independence, 75 iconic moments from Indian sports: No 28 – March 23, 1980: Prakash Padukone wins All-England Championships – SportsMediaz

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

March 23, 1980: Prakash Padukone wins All-England Championships

A coup on the badminton court. A ‘king’ is dethroned. That is what happened when India’s ace, Prakash Padukone clashed with Liem Swie King of Indonesia, considered the world’s best, in the All England final. Prakash literally crushed the reigning champion and the favourite for the title.

What Wimbledon is to tennis, All England is to badminton – the symbol of individual supremacy in the game. Thus, winning this title was Prakash’s ambition in life.

King was the top seed. Prakrash, a joint third seed, had come to the All England with two premier world titles, the Danish and the Swedish Open under his belt. Although all other top players were seen in action in these two tournaments, King was conspicuous by his absence, presumably training back home for an assault at the All England title to make it three in a row.


Prakash Padukone’s felicitated on his return after winning the All England Badminton Championship   –  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

That Prakash was at his best was evident from his victories in the Danish and Swedish Opens and the manner in which he accounted for each of his rivals on way to the final in the All England championship. Imagine a player like Hadiyanto, of Indonesia, not being allowed to score even a single point in the first game. Then Svend Pri, the 1975 All England champion, being thrashed at 15-4 15-4. Next to fall to the Master’s champion in the semifinals was Marten Frost Hansen of Denmark, the joint top seed, at the cost of 8 and 10 points the same.

But then King’s march to the final was no less impressive as he disposed of all his opponents without dropping a game. In the semifinals, the 1977’s world champion, Flemming Delfs only managed a paltry five and eight points in the two games. Although Prakash had beaten all his opponents convincingly King has always been in a class of his own. Moreover, Prakash had never beaten King in their earlier encounters. Only in January this year, King had breezed past Prakash in the semifinals of the Champions Cup held in Japan at the cost of only eight points, two in the first game and six in the second. Prakash had commented afterwards, that King was so fast that he could score points at will against any opponent. Thus even on Prakash’s current form, King was still the favourite.

While King relies on his blistering pace, a sledge hammer smash backed by tremendous fitness and stamina, Prakash combines his power and speed with delicate strokes. Thus if Prakash had to put it across his formidable opponent, he had to slow him down to break his rhythm and get time to play his own stroke, not an easy task by any standards. But it was achieved in a manner which left everyone dumbfounded.

King was humbled at 15-3 and 15-10. With that the most glorious chapter in the history of Indian badminton was written the first Indian to have achieved this feat. By winning the All England title, Prakash completed a hat-trick within a span of 15 days. His victory in the Swedish Open in the final against the great Rudy Hartono, his childhood idol on whose pattern he had modelled his game, must have given him great satisfaction and confidence. In the Danish Open, Prakash had met an entirely different opposition where he beat Flemming Belts, the 1977 world champion in the semifinals. After losing to Prakash in the final Morten Frost Hansen remarked, “The way Padukone played today, he would beat anyone.”

These words of Hansen proved to be prophetic. Prakash’s participation in these two tournaments helped him to acclimatise himself and also gave him the necessary match practice and boosted his confidence to a great extent which eventually helped him to win the All England title.

Prakash’s achievement should inspire all youngsters in the game. But it must be remembered that behind Prakash’s success story lies tremendous devotion, dedication and self-discipline. It is these qualities, that has turned his dream of winning the All England into a reality and taken him to the pinnacle of glory.


Prakash Padukone goes on a victory parade on his return from winning the All England Badminton Championship   –  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

“I felt I was being hypnotised,” Indonesia’s Liem Swie King has been quoted as saying about his losing the all-England badminton title to Prakash Padukone in London. Indonesia’s Kompas daily quoted an unnamed friend of King’s to say thai the World No. 1 felt as though he had been under hypnosis throughout his match with Prakash. “I had taken good care of myself, and was confident of victory when I entered the court,” King was reported to have said.

“But as soon as the game started, I felt I was being hypnotised, and I lost my concentration completely,” King told his confidant. King lost to Prakash to straight games, 3-15, 10-15. The 17-member Indonesia team which came hack with just one trophy for the men’s doubles as against four the previous year, arrived home in a visibly dispirited mood, and having arrived half an hour earlier than schedule there was only a sprinkling of badminton officials and friends to welcome them back.

(The story was first published in Sportstar issue dated April 5, 1980)

Leave a Comment