Abhirup “Lightningfast” Choudhury spoke to VALO2ASIA to reflect on his 2023 run and give his thoughts on the current landscape of the SA scene, as well as GE’s atmosphere going into the 2024 season, among others.
INDIA – Abhirup “Lightningfast” Choudhury now stands as the sole Indian player heading into the 2024 VCT Pacific season, continuing to fly the flag for Mumbai-based Global Esports.
Just like everyone else, the now-23-year-old started from humble beginnings. “It all began when my elder brother started going to the gaming cafe, and I would usually tag along with him. There were a lot of times when no one used to take me on their team just because I wasn’t good enough. Getting rejected there was what lit a fire inside me, and it kickstarted everything.”
“I didn’t really think that I would be here. I mean gaming was just a means to have fun for me until it turned from a passion to my career.” With just two international representations from India and the entire South Asia last year, the count now reduces to one after Ganesh “SkRossi” Gangadhar’s departure. “I kind of admit to the fact that not everyone can be together all the time,” Lightningfast expresses regarding the Jett player’s departure.
Now, all attention turns to Lightningfast as he gears up for a second international season in Seoul with Global Esports, a team he has been associated with since well before the launch of VALORANT.
His tenure with GE traces back to the days of Counter-Strike in mid-2020 when he was listed on their roster for the 2020 ESL India Premiership Summer event and won. Three years is quite a stretch in esports anywhere in the world, where teams often take reality checks not just at the end of every season but even every tournament, which often doesn’t allow players enough time to fully show the best version of themselves.
Sticking with one organization nowadays needs effort from both sides, and Lightningfast has put in the work to be considered and to be included in the conversation of ‘What’s Next’ of Global Esports for years. “Loyalty is a big deal, you know. Being with GE for this long, trusting the process, and sticking with my team has really helped me grow.” Together with Global Esports, he had been dominating every event on home soil, particularly during the pandemic, along with domestic rivals Velocity Gaming.
Following years of being India’s best VALORANT squad, it was revealed in late 2022 that Global Esports had been selected as one of the ten APAC organizations to partner with Riot Games in its tier-one VCT Pacific ecosystem. The GE management ultimately decided to take the international route while retaining two of their Indian players: SkRossi and Lightningfast.
To be fair, Global Esports wasn’t under any obligation to retain or include any Indian players in their roster. Not only does this give Lightningfast his first exposure to the upper echelons of VALORANT, but it also gives him the chance to raise the profile of his country and region. “It feels really great to be someone who can make India proud. I feel like I hold great responsibility but then again I never let the pressure get on to me, because this is something that sits heavy with a lot of people.”
It wasn’t a smooth journey, nor was it an outright storm at sea. Lightningfast’s inaugural international experience involved accompanying the team to São Paulo and Seoul for the 2023 season, concluding with an eighth-place finish among the ten competing teams in the VCT Pacific League. The dominance shown locally by GE didn’t transfer to the international scene, unfortunately.
There were high expectations for a roster comprising potential stars hailing from five different countries. However, the 2023 VCT Pacific League, often referred to by Global Esports as Season 0, turned out to be a significant learning curve for most teams. This was especially true for GE, given the challenges such as visa delays affecting SkRossi and Lightningfast, along with the unforeseen mid-season retirement of WRONSKI.
It was far from a disappointment considering how they pushed DRX to their limit in Week 2, and when we compare things side-to-side with the winless DetonatioN FocusMe. “There were a lot of learning opportunities but more importantly, there were also a lot of mental fortitude challenges involved. But I feel those were the times when I felt like I grew the most because that was when I had so many obstacles to overcome.”
One of the memorable moments Lightningfast recounted was the preparation for the 2023 Last Chance Qualifier, during which the entire team participated in a team-building workshop. “Our only job there was to have fun together and eat a lot of KBBQ together.” More often than not, a team’s results rely on the human aspect—the team’s atmosphere. Ultimately, it’s a group of people playing together, and the synergy among them can heavily impact their performance.
Reflecting on South Asia, there have been occasions where people compared the current state of the region to its time before the partnership era, often calling SA a weakened region from multiple angles such as performance, viewership number, and more. It is a huge region but precious little pedigree in international play, with their only notable moment being the former GE squad that almost took down F4Q in the 2021 APAC Last Chance Qualifier.
Lightningfast himself believes that the pace of progress seen in other regions is the reason for some to perceive South Asia as stagnant or even regressing. “I think with the players we have from 2023, SA Valorant is better right now, as compared to the first VCC event in 2021. Along with SA every other region has also improved, and that’s why it looks like this region is stuck and I hope it can improve over time and faster than every other region.”
In conversations about why Indian teams, as well as South Asian VALORANT teams in general, face difficulties in achieving success on the international stage, Lightningfast believes that focusing on infrastructure should be the main foundation for the region to catch up with the rest of the world. “There can be a debate that there is also a lack of talent but again there are some talents and I don’t think those talents are guided in the right direction to be better and then they are left with no hunger towards the game because people start feeling hopeless about it.”
“I do think these problems can be solved, and it has to be kickstarted by the organizations to search for and guide players to their potential. Although it won’t happen in one day and it’s a long process of losing and learning to finally get to winning, just buying a star roster is not the way.”
When asked about Indian players to watch out for in the upcoming season, Lightningfast mentioned four names: Shravana “Techno” Sahoo (True Rippers), Pranav “Kohliii” Kohli (Grayfox), Venkatesh “venka” Sharma (Grayfox), and Prish “Tricky” Valvani (ex-Medal Esports).
As the 2024 season approaches, Lightningfast also shared insights on Global Esports’ new roster from an internal perspective.
The team has undergone a complete rebuild since last year, with Lightningfast, who to begin with wasn’t in the starting five most of the time, being the only remaining player from the previous lineup. “This team is so much fun to hang out with: we are all a bunch of jokers and we make sure everyone is in a team environment and no one is really drifting off alone. Having fun together playing for a common goal.”
Lightningfast wraps up the interview with VALO2ASIA, saying that “things are gonna be crazier this year, so keep supporting.”
Cover photo courtesy of VCT Pacific