When Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy bagged the men’s doubles at the Thailand Open Badminton Championships, the country took note. They were the first Indian doubles pair to grab a BWF World Tour Super 500 title.
In Mumbai, Chirag’s father Chandrasekhar Shetty was revelling in his son’s victory. He had pushed and encouraged both his children to pursue an individual sport: Chirag’s sister Arya also plays badminton. “I did not want him to be playing any team game, because unlike individual sport, a lot of factors are involved in getting into a team, including politics. In an individual game, nobody can stop you if you are number one. Even in my dream, I did not think he will be so successful,” Chandrasekhar, a hotelier, said during a chat at the Uday Pawar Badminton Acacemy, located at Goregaon Sports Club (GSC) in suburban Mumbai
The Chirag-Satwiksairaj duo is listed at No. 9 in the latest world badminton rankings.
The 22-year-old Chirag trained under Pawar, ex-India doubles international, at GSC and caught the eye of national coaches during tournaments. He was subsequently was inducted into the Hyderabad camp. With Chirag training at the Gopichand Academy along with Hyderabad-based Satwiksairaj, his father took the onus of travelling often to be by his Chirag’s side. “I don’t allow him to stay alone for more than 15 days. If he has to stay longer in Hyderabad, I go there, check into a hotel near the academy and we spend time together,” he says.
He also travels to every competition in India where his son plays. His wife Sujata travels with daughter Arya, also a trainee at the Uday Pawar Academy and aspiring for a doubles career, to tournaments.
“My only advice to the children after putting them into sport was that they should excel in what they do. Chirag was a topper in badminton at the school level (representing Ryan International and NM Commerce college). She is bronze medallist in U-17 category, is talented and works hard. With regular partners in women’s doubles, I feel she can be a future India prospect. In the girls category, partners keep changing thrice a year. She is looking for a doubles partner,” he says.
Watching Chirag in matches is a stressful experience for Chandrasekhar. “We get to watch a lot of badminton, though the enjoyment part is not there. As a parent, there is always anxiety. To watch him compete takes a toll on my nerves. It is okay in the first two-three rounds, then matches get tough,” he points out, adding that tournament exposure has made the son confident of facing opposition.
When back home in Malad, Chirag continues to train at GSC, where both father and son are members. “He trains on his own in morning as a club member, then returns for evening academy sessions under Uday Pawar, who had played for India and is aware of the standards. Having a coach present on court every day for training is a blessing for those at the academy, so are the club facilities for badminton players,” he says.
Chirag and Saatwiksai Reddy flew from Bangkok to Hyderabad and the Shetty family is waiting for his homecoming later this week. When both the kids are at home, does the talk revolve around badminton? “Chirag and Arya don’t discuss badminton when at home, each has their own interest which keeps them busy. He likes watching series and movies on Netflix,” he reveals.
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