Badminton legend Natekar hails current crop of Indian players

Praising Indian shuttlers for their consistent performance in recent times, badminton legend Nandu Natekar feels the sport is enjoying its golden era in the country.

Former national champion Nandu Natekar (R) feels this is the golden era of Indian badminton. (File Photo)   -  Vivek Bendre

Praising Indian shuttlers for their consistent performance in recent times, badminton legend Nandu Natekar feels the sport is enjoying its golden era in the country.

“Very true, that it’s the golden era of the Indian badminton. It’s so pleasing to see the names of the Indian girls in focus, and even the men, instead of Chinese, Thais and Malaysians (as was the case in the past).

“It’s a tremendous achievement and they deserve all the kudos,” said Natekar, who was the first Indian to win a badminton title overseas in 1956. He was speaking at the Legends Club felicitation function to herald his 85th birthday at the Cricket Club of India on Saturday.

Comparing the strong points of the two top Indian women shuttlers, 2016 Olympic silver medalist P. V. Sindhu and 2012 Olympic bronze winner Saina Naiwal, he said, “Sindhu uses her height to her advantage. Saina is a great fighter.”

Natekar, who made it to the quarterfinal of the then unofficial All-England Championship in 1954 in his only appearance in the prestigious tournament, described Kidambi Srikanth as “a class player“.

He noted that badminton, over the years, has “progressed by leaps and bounds in speed, commitment and fitness levels of the players“.

“I once watched Wong Peng Soon (former All England champion of Singapore and his idol) play a match here and then make five rounds of the ground and (I too) tried to do the same, but could not finish even one lap,” he recalled.

Looking back at his glittering career that started in 1951 and ended in 1965, the shuttle legend, who bagged the maximum number of votes in 1954 in a newspaper survey about the most popular sportsperson even edging out cricket icon Vinoo Mankad, who came second, said he was a self-taught man.

“I was never coached. I learned watching others playing. You should keep on watching (others play),” remarked Natekar, who won six national men’s singles titles, as many doubles titles and five mixed doubles crowns an unparallelled feat.

He was the recipient of the Arjuna Award in the year of its inception 1961 but strangely was never considered for the Padma awards and never got one too. “I never thought about it (not getting Padma award). I used to forget about my matches soon after they got over and concentrated on music,” he said.

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