Yesterday one of my state team mates told me that out of the three national tournaments scheduled before the nationals, not even one is happening. Every tournament has been postponed to an indefinite date. We both looked at each other, lent out our frustration on this and got ready for our west zone match. There is a serious case of a whole senior domestic circuit missing and it is extremely annoying.
When I was in the juniors I used to play 15 tournaments in total in a whole year. This included the state level, the national level and the school games. At the age of 14years I played my first Junior French open and got a bronze. I used to play in the under 16 and under 19 category at the same time and win both. That’s how I got my chance to play for the junior Indian team at the age of 14.
I look back and I have no doubt that an extremely active and a vibrant national circuit is the sole reason for a 14 year old girl to have had the chance of representing the country. There was a constant need to perform. There was this excitement, a sense of purpose in training. All of us players would keep playing each other every month. There was a constant and a fair chance for everyone to beat the number one player of the country. The number one player had to constantly work, to keep the coveted spot.
I was ranked number one or two in most of my junior days. There used to be this crazy pressure to handle every time I entered the court. Today when I look back I realize that the constant need to win, that will to work hard and a sense of motivation was purely because there was a tournament every month.
Today things have changed drastically. As a senior player I get to play two and if I am really lucky three tournaments every year. I have to wait sometimes for six months to play a tournament, to get a chance to see where I stand. I am expected to keep myself motivated and fit for a tournament every six months. A player works hard not really to play well in practice. I wish there was a prize for working hard in practice most of us senior players would win a gold. But sadly there isn’t a prize!
The reasons as I know for not having tournaments is lack of sponsors and non-availability of India’s top players. The sponsors don’t give the money if the top Indian players don’t participate. I really have nothing against the top Indian players, who I very well know are doing really well at the international circuit. The international circuit is extremely taxing and tough and there are two tournaments every month. I get their point of not playing the national circuit, or not having any time to spare. I totally get this.
What I don’t get is, why should a whole lot of 100 to 200 players who don’t play the international circuit or don’t have the money to play abroad suffer because 15 top international players of India don’t have the time to spare. We are told there are no sponsors to get us the prize money. But really who are we kidding, badminton players are used to crap prize money. As a player today I would play a tournament even if I get 1000 rupees for winning it. But for God sake give me a tournament to play!!!
Today the deal is simple I am a state level player. I want a chance to play India’s best players as much as possible, and see where I stand. I want to test myself against them. I work hard everyday with a tournament in my mind and I get to know most of the times that I have to wait till the end of the year.
China has produced a series of World and Olympic champions. I have been told that every top player in China has to play the domestic events. China has a grueling series of national tournaments and inter-club leagues every season. They had shown some of those league matches on tv and I was amazed at the level of badminton. China produces champions every month, and still they do feel the need of having a domestic season. We produce one Saina every 20 years( thankfully Sindhu didn’t take too long.. ;)..) and what we have in the name of a domestic circuit is one tournament every December. Well, I rest my case!!!