Prakash Padukone: Style and grace came naturally to Nandu

Nandu Natekar was one of the most stylish badminton players in the world, alongside Suresh Goel and Trilok Nath Seth.

Prakash Padukone and Nandu Natekar in Mumbai on March 26, 1980.   -  The Hindu Archives

Nandu came one generation before me. I’ve seen him play during the later stages of his career. He was one of the most stylish badminton players in the world, alongside Suresh Goel and Trilok Nath Seth.

In his era — 50s and 60s — the focus was on style and grace, not power. Style and grace came naturally to Nandu. Players of my generation viewed Nandu as a pioneer.

He had the best results for an Indian badminton player before I came in. His career was constrained by the fact that he did not get many opportunities to play international tournaments. In those days, badminton was not a popular sport. Nandu competed in only one or two All-England Championships.

READ: Badminton legend Nandu Natekar passes away aged 88

Nandu made a big mark, despite having limited opportunities. In those days, players looked forward to taking on the world’s best in invitational tournaments held in Bombay and Jabalpur. Nandu defeated some world-class players in those tournaments.

Off the court, he was a thorough gentleman. After his retirement, he held a senior position in a Public Sector Unit (PSU). He was one of the few badminton players who did really well in post-retirement life.

Good at tennis too

Nandu was equally good at tennis. He played against Ramanathan Krishnan and other top Indian players of the time. He also spent a lot of time playing golf after settling in Pune.

I met Nandu around 10-15 years ago at a friend’s house. He was in his 70s, and had just started learning how to sing classical music. He even joined a singing class, and would travel everywhere with his ‘Shruti box’. He was always happy to sing; he never turned down a song request from us.

(As told to Ashwin Achal)

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