Getting her priorities right

Badminton enthusiasts and fans of Saina Nehwal, who protested vehemently against the player for skipping the National Championship in Indore in February, must now be feeling regretful.

Not only Saina, but also the top seed in the men’s section, Chetan Anand, had given the Nationals a go-by. The top seeds in both the men’s and women’s sections withdrawing from the championship gave the Indore Nationals a dubious distinction. However, the concern at that time was more on Saina’s absence, which the organisers got to know only at the last minute. The Organising Secretary, Anil Choughule, then said the glamour and class of the championship had been robbed. “How can I explain to the very many sponsors and fans?” he lamented. Incidentally, the organisers had displayed posters of the world junior champion and India’s new badminton star at several important junctions in Indore as part of the build-up to the Nationals.

When enquired, her personal coach Gopi Chand (who is also the National coach) revealed that “she was undergoing rehabilitation physiotherapy for her sore right shoulder.”

Learning of Saina’s inability to participate in the Nationals very late, understandably, made the organisers react the way they did. They even blamed the Badminton Association of India for “keeping the organisers in the dark.”

Maestro Prakash Padukone, who had graced the championship, too could not escape probing questions from the media. Ever the gentleman, Prakash made it clear that if a player was genuinely injured then little could be done about it. He also said that after the experience of a major tournament in Mumbai earlier, when some leading players had pulled out, the sport would be the greatest sufferer if players begin to skip tournaments.

However, Saina knew what her priorities were — she wanted to make her mark at the international level. Even though her efforts to put up a good show at the All England championship did not materialise, the ‘Saina surge’ began then, culminating in the triumph at the Indonesian Open Super Series tournament.

Even her critics would agree that not playing at the Indore Nationals was a small disappointment when compared with her other great performances in her growing career. It was indeed a wise decision by Saina to skip the tournament to take care of her niggling injury.