Badminton: Thulasi plans measured approach to improve

P. C. Thulasi, the National badminton champion, has carefully marked out her path towards becoming a force in India's women's badminton. She had a chat with Sportstar about her plans for the near future, and more.

National badminton champion P. C. Thulasi is currently ranked 101, a huge slip caused considerably due to an ankle injury.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

This had been one of her big goals in life. Now, after winning the Senior National women’s badminton title in Chandigarh on Sunday, P.C. Thulasi feels that a big burden is off her head. Her aim now is to get her world ranking back on track.

“I’ve gone down badly in the world rankings, early last year I was No. 34 but now I’ve fallen out of 100. I lost around three months midway through last year with an ankle injury and missed many tournaments,” said the 24-year-old on Monday evening. “From next month onwards, I have to start playing on the international circuit again. I have not decided the events, I still have time.”

For a country which boasts of having two women in the world’s top ten in Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu (both missed the National as they were busy on the international circuit), life can tough for the second stringers.

“My world ranking is low now, so it’s very difficult to get Government funding. I have to fund myself and try to get a good ranking, something like 50, only then will the Government start funding me,” said the Kerala star, the world No. 101, who trains at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad.

But with that sort of world ranking, it will be tough to gain entry in big tournaments. “I can go for the smaller international tournaments but they rarely send players for these,” she said.

Big Gap

The gulf between the top pack and the rest of the gang is huge. After Saina and Sindhu in the top ten, the next best Indian woman is Tanvi Lad, the girl Thulasi beat in the Senior National final, at No. 92, followed by Thulasi.

“There is a big gap after players like Saina and Sindhu. I know, I have to improve a lot but I am not going to burden myself thinking too much. My first aim now is to come into the top 75. If I aim big, it could be difficult,” said the HR Executive at ONGC, Chennai.

Confidence booster

But the fact that she has been beating talented girls like Ruthvika Shivani, who shocked P. V. Sindhu and won the South Asian Games gold in Shillong early this year, and Rituparna Das has boosted Thulasi’s confidence in a big way.

In fact the victory over defending champion Ruthvika in Chandigarh was the turning point at the recent Senior National, feels Thulasi a former under-13 and under-16 national champion.

“Actually, I did not expect to win the National title, the juniors are all playing well and the field has become tougher. I was trailing all through the match against Ruthvika and after beating her in the semifinal, I became very confident in the final.”

25-year wait ends

A senior national singles trophy comes to Kerala after 25 years, after Arjuna Awardee George Thomas’ 1991 National men’s title.

Some 15 years ago, when their little daughter showed promise in badminton, Thulasi’s parents shifted from Palakkad to Thrissur so that she could train under expert coach M.J. Mohanachandran. But the early days were very tough.

“I used to take seven or eight days leave to accompany Thulasi for tournaments…but after some time, my company told me that if I took further leave, I can sit at home,” said her dad T. V. Prasanthan, who works in a pharmaceutical company.

Now, the family is reaping the rewards.