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By Sunil Gavaskar
Although we are slap bang in the middle of the Indian Premier League and all the razzmatazz that goes with it, the best sporting news that has come through is that Saina Nehwal has reached number five in the Badminton rankings. The four before her are all Chinese players and there are three more after her.
Saina also became the first Indian woman to reach the last four of the All England Open Badminton Championships which is the crème de la crème of the badminton events through the year and though she fought well it wasn’t good enough to get her past Tina Rasmussen who has been her nemesis on court for some time now. She has beaten most if not all the top ranked Chinese players and to finish in the semis of the event is a terrific achievement indeed. It was so refreshing to see her ranking on the front pages of at least one national daily and it shows that as far as this paper is concerned it has its heart in the right place unlike others who would rather have a broken engagement on its front pages.
Badminton requires tremendous discipline and self denial and Saina has done that and got where she is today and her ambition of becoming number one is something that needs total support from all those who sincerely love the sport and not just mouth about it. She has denied herself all the fun that girls of her age have and unlike others who are now more famous for being famous and are more often on page three than the sporting pages she focuses only on her game.
Let us hope that the sponsors will come through now so that her training and other needs to get her to the top spot are taken care of and she can thus fully concentrate on her goal. Good on you Saina and here’s wishing you all the luck to bring more glory to India on the Badminton court. Her coach Gopichand also deserves kudos for the manner in which he has shaped her career and he himself is an example of how hard work and self belief can get you to the top.
Today so much focus is on the marriage of sport and entertainment that it is no surprise that some players forget that they are what they are because of their game and not because they are seen at parties and functions.
We in India also should stop giving awards just to have a glamour quotient and give it only to the really deserving ones. When eyeballs and sound bytes become criteria then real appreciation goes out of the window and people who are seen, rather than people who can play, get awards and it actually demeans and belittles the awards that other winners are getting that day. Awards should be only for performance and not for looks for there are enough beauty and body building contests where such awards can be given. Awards also should not be given only if the sportsperson agrees to attend the function but because he/ she deserves it.
The Indian boxers’ also winning five Gold medals in the just concluded Commonwealth Boxing Championships is fantastic news and they also need to be encouraged and given all the backing and support that they need to continue and maintain their performance. Their’s also is a career of great sacrifices and keeping their weight in check so that they can compete in that category and that also requires tremendous self discipline.
India is showing that it has winners in different fields of sport and thus those sports are also getting the exposure that is bringing them to the attention of the masses which in turn will mean that more will be encouraged to take up the sport and bring medals to the country.
Rajyavardhan Rathore who won a silver medal in the Athens Olympics has written a heartfelt account about the new selection policy formed just a few days back to select shooters for the Commonwealth and other major events in the ensuing year and it is something that sports lovers and the Ministry of Sport should look at and try and remedy the situation.
Why is it that instead of helping sportspersons there are obstacles put in his or her path? What pleasure does it give anybody to do that? Why should our hockey team have to suspend its training and practice to get what was promised to them? Even a day’s training lost means that preparations have been set back by a week or so and with all that occurred the players must be commended for the manner in which they played. Sure it was disappointing after that wonderful win over arch rivals Pakistan, the team was unable to maintain the form and win more games but what that match showed was how improved the speed and skill of the players was especially after the bleak years of the previous decade.
Most experts believe that the coach has brought the necessary zip into the team and that his formula for improvement of Indian hockey needs to be looked at seriously and given plenty of thought. Maybe an open discussion with some of Indian hockey’s greats especially those who have just retired but are still in touch with international hockey would help in developing a plan that will sustain Indian team’s growth over the next many years.
Oh yes, the IPL has begun with some close matches but it should get more exciting as the teams get close to qualifying for the semi finals.