Honed tough by sport

After a wedding by fire, Sania Mirza & Shoaib Malik are looking to the future with hope. Over to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

India's tennis star Sania Mirza and Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik created history by becoming the first sporting couple cutting across the two borders. “Yes, it will be great to don the role of sports ambassadors for Indo-Pak relationship,” exclaimed the star couple in an exclusive chat before leaving for Pakistan.

Sania and Shoaib faced some very embarrassing moments before they got married in Hyderabad. “Yes, being sportspersons who have fought many battles on the field, we had that mental toughness and the spirit to face any challenge. We think that was what helped us overcome this worst crisis of our career,” said the newly-wed couple.

Sania and Shoaib are now a relieved pair even as they look back at that turbulent phase.

“Well, it was certainly not the ideal thing to have happened before the marriage. But, we must tell you that this actually made our relationship stronger,” emphasised Sania and Shoaib, in a relaxed mood at Sania's residence.

“Definitely, it was the toughest phase emotionally, too. But, there was never a moment of mistrust right through for we always knew what the truth was,” said Sania. “The best part of the unfortunate and completely avoidable episode was that I was here in Hyderabad and could always interact with Sania's parents instead of talking on the phone or otherwise,” Shoaib intervened to say. “But, what really hurt me was the trauma her (Sania's) parents had to face before the marriage,” Shoaib said.

“There was never any doubt about our marriage, though there was the suspense whether it would happen on April 12 or 15 or next year. Once the wedding-related ceremonies started, everything began to settle down and I tell you every family member — from both sides — enjoyed it all despite all the furore outside,” remarked Sania.

“I have faced a lot of controversies, but this one was really tough. We had to explain a lot, though there was no need actually for this, in the wake of all those allegations,” she said to a query.

“The logic for us was pretty simple. We wanted to get married and the two families knew it was going to happen,” said the couple.

“Certainly, we defied all odds. Apart from the Mirza family, I was in constant touch with my childhood friends Shakeel, Faisal and Abrar who were always a source of strength during that turbulent phase,” said Shoaib.

“It was certainly painful to see my parents spend sleepless nights. Even we felt as if the six or seven days preceding the marriage were like a couple of years,” Sania remarked.

“Honestly, I did not expect this sort of trial by the media when I arrived in Hyderabad for the wedding. I was a bit shocked. Things moved so fast. Everyday there was one twist or the other. Definitely, I felt all this controversy was uncalled for before the wedding,” Shoaib said.

“What really hurt me was I had to defend all these baseless allegations being made against Malik before the marriage. And, I can challenge no one is going to prove them even after 50 years,” said Sania to a query. “I always felt that the elders or the court of law should decide the fate of these allegations and not anyone else,” she added.

“At the end of it all, we stand vindicated for we always knew what the truth was. And, the way we faced all this even before our wedding should only help us lead a much happier life in the days to come,” the star couple said.

The two signed off with a clear signal that they were determined to continue their sporting career, come what may. “I will play for India and he will play for Pakistan and we will be based in Dubai,” Sania asserted even as Malik nodded in approval.