the rise and rise of indian badminton


CRICKET……!this word is so important for India.i think it comes right after roti,kapda aur makan!its a religion,every kid in india wants to be sachin tendulkar.i personally hate cricket,i find it unbelievably boring.the only thing i admire about it is THE GOD- SACHIN TENDULKAR.the little master has made the whole world run on the tunes of his bat.hes a maharashtrian,coming from a very humble background.his humility and conduct are awe inspiring.but barring that it fails to impress me or nothing about it excites me.its been a debate in india about how all the other games in india always get neglected and how we have no sponsors and attention given to players not playing cricket.badminton is facing the same situation today!it almost pisses me off.

badminton i think in the present times is having the most successful run.i think after prakash sir and gopichand,we have never had a string of so many noticeable performances in the history of badminton.saina is right now the face of indian badminton undoubtedly,and she deserves all the attention and accolades.but even if you look at indian badminton after her performances we have so many of them.the indian men have 4 guys in the top 50,aarvind bhat,anup sridhar,chetan anand,p.kashyap.they all are doing well.the mens team has been amongst the top 8 for the last 2 editions and playing quarters consistently in the thomas cup.we are amongst the top 8 in the whole world.its a huge thing!similarly in the women we qualified for the first time in the history of indian badminton this year for the finals of the uber cup and landed up reaching the quarters!it was one of the proudest moments for all of us seeing our flag out there with the top teams in the world.
in the women i am ranked 36 in the world after saina,there are around 3 more girls in the top 100.i have played two grand prix finals,i landed up playing the asian badminton championships quarterfinals this year.i have run very close to beating the top 20 players in the world and have some wins against them too.im not trying to advertise myself but what i am trying to say is that badminton deserves the nations notice as a game and all of us who are working so hard.sayali and trupti both have won challenger events and inching closer towards the top 50 bracket.
the recent junior performances have been so encouraging.p.v. sindhu played the quarterfinals in the junior world championships,similarly we had two guys sai praneeth and prannoy playing the semis in the same tournament.its an incredible thing to have two players playing semifinals in the world champs.both sindhu and sai have qualified for the youth olympics as well.our mixed doubles pair of jwala and diju have played super series finals,have won grand prixs and gold grand prix events.they are in top 15 in the world.
i think after reading about all these performances i am wondering why still badminton as a game is not getting its due.as players we cant do anything more really.we all are working hard,we all are performing.in the world of badminton the indian contigent today is looked upto!everyone is taking us so much more seriously.when we enter the stadium as a team or when we are practicing,teams like china,korea,japan look at us inquisitively!i will elaborate a little on this.we had to play korea in the league in the uber cup.ofcourse having saina with us is always does wonders because she just refuses to lose,i had to play the second singles.the korean i played is the super series finalist and i almost beat her losing the third game on 15.similarly sayali played next and she lost in three games to the third singles player.my point here is when we enter the court today,its not a given any more that a korean will win the match.they have to fight real hard to beat us,they no more can just win without effort.we have never had this before.the asians and europeans have started giving us that respect today.similarly in the mens,anup has beaten the likes of taufik,peter gade,tago,hafiz,and is an olympian.similarly the younger batch has players like anand pawar,ajay jayaram,p.kashyap and guru sai dutt who are running very close to beating the top players and you will see a host of great performances from all of them.
with all this all i mean to say is that the world has taken notice that india has arrived.we as players no more have the notion of china,korea,japan as unbeatable.we have rose in belief that we are as good as anybody in the world and if we persist we have the potential of being the worlds best.this kind of approach is new found.as players all we expect is a little bit of notice and so much more support from our people.
in india we are hungry for heroes.and today with so much of exposure it is so easy to create greatness out of mediocrity.here there is potential for real greatness but no one seems interested.we just want to run behind games which have either glamour like tennis or cricket where there is money.even though honestly speaking we dont have both we have one and the most important thing that matters PERFORMANCES.as a player i cannot be expected to market my game,or to look sexy or have excellent PR skills.thats not what i am trained for.we have marketing firms everywhere,we have corporates with loads of money to spend but they rather spend it on cricket or tennis,not really because they are better performers but just because they sell more than a badminton player who might be top 10 in the world.its really sad.badminton today has the potential of being as loved and as followed as cricket.we need to build the future of the next generation and we need to change the notion in india that if you want to play let your child play cricket or tennis,anything else is not worth your time and energy.badminton today is undoubtedly amongst the top 3 most successful sports in the country.though whos bothered they rather focus on sania and shoaibs first interview after marriage! common INDIA wake up to us! the WORLD already has!
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the asian badminton championships QUARTERFINALS!!!!!

I’m in Malaysia,staying in the palace of golden horses which is a seven star.the hotel has been home for most of the prime ministers of many countries,and i am not lying they have put up pictures at the reception lobby.the hotel is superb.rooms are huge and beautiful.the bathroom itself is like a single bed room,so you can imagine.playing for India surely has its perks!!

ok so coming back to the title.playing the ABC quarterfinals is definitely one of my best achievements.it came at a very important juncture of my career.just the last December i had played the finals of the Lucknow grand prix and lost to saina in the final.that was big for me because on my way i had beaten maria febe from Indonesia in the semis pretty convincingly.maria and i have a history she has beaten me twice before to my one,so i equalled that.maria is a good player ranked in the top 20 in the world.so ya it was a great win.i was on a great high,it was an ideal result for me before the senior nationals that were coming up in January.i was aiming at winning the nationals,i badly wanted to win.the nationals was in guwahati.right from the first round i was feeling great.my movements,my strokes everything just felt so right.but then in the semifinals i played trupti.in the first game i was leading 19-16 when i slipped and my knee felt a jerk,once that happened i was gone.i froze,i had never frozen so badly before.i continued till the second game till 3-11.i was crying the whole time.i was just so scared,i thought about all the hard work i had put in and how now everything was again going to go back to square 1.i was disgusted at the unfairness of it all.i was cursing myself,God,everyone!i conceded.i threw my racket so hard,that i broke it.i was crying,yelling almost!i was just not leaving the court.a crowd of 20 people came and took me away on a chair.there was complete commotion and i was in a trance.i had no idea what was happening.i saw balan sir,girish sir,gopi bhaiya.they all were comforting me,but i was just not reacting…..this was the situation for a good 45mins after which i did finally speak.and the person i spoke to first was balan sir!……it was dramatic…..real life drama.i have never in my life shown so much of emotion on the court,never!i just hate getting sympathy from people around,so i always cry when i am all by myself.but ya that day it was different.i just couldn’t control it.that was some experience!!!
i got back from guwahati.my parents were devastated but they tried hard not to show.both of them by then were telling me to think about a second career option…and asking questions like was all this pain worth it???i took some time with myself.i had never had doubts about badminton in my life.whenever injuries have pushed me down i have always fought it and worked harder.i knew this time was not going to be any different at all.i went and met hemant sir.hemant sir knows me so well,sometimes i wonder if he knows me better than myself.i think he does.the conversation we had that day did me a whole lot of good.i thought about the way i dealt with the injury for the last few years,and i realised there was something missing.something that was very important.i have always been very sincere.i never miss my rehab exercises,my meditation sessions,my dairy,anything.i knew even this time everything is going to be the same,there is not going to be a dramatic difference in my training programme.i still had to do the same things.than what was is that i lacked????the answer was so clear.it was that one word “belief”! the point is i always kept working hard,but i doubted if it was good enough.if i was following the right programme,or should i be getting more professional help.i was doing everything but at the end of the day i just always thought i was not doing enough.i kept talking to people,as many as i could to find out different things about the knee and the rehab.the more opinions i took the more i got confused.i have never had a personal trainer or anything.so all the rehab and planning of my training after an injury has always been done by me,right from the tender age of 17 when i first twisted it.i don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad.for me its been good.i have learned so much.and the best thing about working by yourself if things go wrong you just have one person to blame ‘u’!and if they are good i cant begin to tell you how good that can feel.of course i did work for some time with dr.anand gangwal.he was a great help.but at the end of the day in india a player is most of the time all alone.he doesn’t have sponsors,federations or anybody to support him 90% of the time.i have always been a part of that 90%!!
so i was off for three weeks.i was supposed to rest,not even do my exercises.i used that time to mentally prepare myself for the next coming weeks.i constantly told myself to be positive,to believe,to be confident that whatever i did could never not help me.this approach really helped me.when i started with exercises and rehab.i almost knew that this time things were different.when i entered the court after two more weeks,i constantly reminded myself about believing.i just felt so good in practice.once i was allowed to play i would almost be thinking about things i need to improve 24/7.my mom told people ‘majhi mulgi thodi vedi jhaliye“my daughter has gone a little crazy…..haha….ofcourse she was very happy,because she knew i was doing things differently and was getting better and better.moms just always know everything….i wonder how????my schedule for the day was packed…i would gym in the morning from 7 to 8.30,then play with hemant sir at 9 for and hour and half,that was followed by breakfast.then come back on the court at 1 for some technique work with anand kaka,who was very sweet to help me out in that heat of pune.he just said’ u just tell me the time and place and i will be there’,cant thank him enough for that.that would finish at 2-2.30….come back home for lunch.pranayam class at 4,for an hour and than practice again at 6 which would finish by 8-30.home at 9,dinner,read a book sleep at 10.30.this was my schedule for around 3 to 4 weeks.i used to be so dead.but needless to say i was loving it.i would just get a sunday to relax a bit.
once i finished 4 weeks,it was time to play matches against good players.i had two weeks before abc so i decided it would be better to be in bangalore as there are many more players to play matches against.in bangalore the aim was to play more and more matches,get some confidence before the abc.that’s what exactly happened.in the beginning it was tough…..but slowly but surely i did start winning more practice games,i was rising in confidence everyday.by the time we had to leave to Delhi i was a ll ready,hungry and raring to go!!!
once i was in delhi i had only one aim to win the first round.which was difficult as i had to play fu mingtian of singapore,she is basically a chinese who plays for singapore now.i had lost to her in the previous occasion.so i knew i had to work very hard to win.before the match i did my usual routine of warm up,closed my eyes thought about all the hard work i had put in and entered the court.the first game was cool.i won pretty easily 21-13.i was in the lead throughout and was playing from the slower side which is always easy to play.most of the courts in asia always have a slow and a fast side thanks to the air con.its necessary to get adjusted quickly,the best players can look ordinary in the first rounds….but ofcourse once they get accustomed they keep getting better and better.in the second game i was on the faster side i couldnt control the shuttle too well.though we both were tiring out,it was all long rallies.i lost on 17.the third game started from the good side for me.i was down throughout in this game,till 13-9.i was constantly telling myself to fight,and reminding myself to just think about winning a point.in the previous occasions in situations like these i would always think about winning or losing,about things like how hard i had worked and how it will hurt when i lose.but the key in these situations is just to think about taking a point.the more u think about anything else the more difficult it is to concentrate.it worked wonders,i slowly was creeping back.i made it 14 all,from there i went up to a 3point lead.it was 17-14.when i looked at fu i knew she was surprised,scared she didnt expect me to fight back.once i had made my point that she will have to fight to win….she gave up.i was just stronger mentally that day there was no other difference.i won on 18.i was elated,on cloud 9.it was great really.though after the match i told myself to relax.to think about winning the next one.i had to play a taipei girl.she was good.she just keeps running,just like me.i knew i had to fight very hard to beat her there wont be any easy points.
the next day i did the same things as the previous one.in a tournament it is very necessary to follow the same schedule.i am very particular about when i eat i sleep…everything u live in a time table.i followed it to the T.i did my match warm up and entered the court with only winning in my mind.in the first game we started neck to neck,the rallies were so long right from the first point.both of us were panting,running like dogs almost,to get points.1t was 17 all,suddenly she went up to a 20-17 lead.again i didnt have any result in my mind i kept cool kept thinking ways to take points,somehow.and it happened….i played some unbelievable shots surprised myself too,and made it 20 all.i knew this was my chance she had lost her moral a little bit.i told myself to up the pace a little bit.it helped i won 23-21.the second game started neck to neck again.the score was 11-10 in the break.at the break i told myself it is going to be a long match,very long.but i noticed a change in her body language she looked more tired than me,she looked surprised just like fu,she gave me the look which said why the hell wont you give up??’i know that look i have got that many times before.u always know.after that i got straight 10 points to win 21-10.i couldn’t believe it could be that easy.i was smiling all through the press conference.i had entered my first QUARTERFINAL.it was an awesome feeling.
the next day the papers had me and saina all over it.i gave a live all india radio interview.it was good to share space with saina in the headlines.it was good to know that she was not the all alone fighting against the world,that i was out there too fighting.i got so many calls,messages,good wishes!it was amazing….winning can really be good!very good!
the next day i had to play the chinese qualifier who eventually played the finals.i got thrashed 15 n 11.i have not played a chinese for a long time now.you have to keep playing them to realise that they are human.that yes they are quicker,stronger may be but if played in the right way they can be beaten.though i lost i learned a lot,importantly i came out of the court thinking that if i get quicker and stronger i can beat them too.
abc taught me that there was potential in me to do great things if i persisted, that the approach i attempted worked for me.that anything you do the only thing that is more essential than anything else is belief.if you believe anything is possible.yes,another that i did realise was that there are a whole lot of people who wish me well and genuinely want me to succeed.i cant thank them enough for their support.only thing that will come close to doing justice is playing better and giving my level best to be the best i can be!!!