Saina should aim for number one spot

Published : Jul 04, 2009 00:00 IST

Prakash Padukone.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH
Prakash Padukone.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Prakash Padukone.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Saina Nehwal’s feat — winning the Indonesian Open Super Series badminton championship recently — is a remarkable achievement which puts her right among the top five in the world. She has done that by sheer consistency.

As per my yardstick for excellence, given the present format of the game, one has to reach the semifinals in at least seven or eight tournaments out of 10 big events. That’s a demanding task, and only the best can measure up to that. And I am happy that Saina has made that grade.

Her triumph is not a fluke or one-off, but a culmination of consistent performances. Saina is mentally very tough and fearless. Other Indian players such as Chetan Anand, Anup Sridhar and Arvind Bhat have had their share of big wins, but they have not been as consistent as Saina. To get to the level that she has reached, they need to work harder, play with a lot more focus and determination. I am not saying that they lack those qualities, but they should strive for more. To get into the top rung, Anand, Sridhar and Bhat need to make more sacrifices that the game demands. My message to them and the other youngsters would be to take a leaf out of Saina’s book.

Now that she has truly arrived, Saina might lose a couple of matches here and there, but she should take them in her stride. All top players such as Lin Dan and Peter Gade have lost a few odd matches; same will be the case with Saina. Such losses should not matter and she should take them as a learning process. Her fans and the media should understand them in the proper perspective; they should not put her under the scanner for the odd loss or two.

My advice to Saina would be to keep working hard, play sharp, stay fit and stay injury free. More than getting to the top, staying there is a difficult proposition. Though I have not seen her play lately, I feel she has an all-round game. Credit should go to Gopi Chand and the support staff who have been working with Saina. They have done a wonderful job.

My other advice to Saina would be to stay focused on her goal, which should be to become the No. 1 player in the world. Nothing should distract her; awards, honours and accolades will come her way if she stays focused on her goal.

In her quest for excellence, Saina, along with her coach, has to work out the right mix of tournaments and training.

Too much of either thing is not good. I don’t think Saina needs a training stint abroad. She has got everything here, including a good coach, training facilities and sparring partners.

Saina’s next goal should be to reach the No. 1 spot which she is capable of achieving in the next two years. For this we need to provide her whatever she needs, including the assistance of a physio, trainer, psychologist etc. if required. Saina will be the best person to decide what she wants.

Saina has now put Indian badminton in the spotlight and it is bound to galvanise everything that’s connected with the sport. The media attention is very much on the game now. The Badminton Association of India too should capitalise on her success and give a greater push to the game.

I have a suggestion for Saina. She should try and play a couple of tournaments in India depending upon her international schedule. I am aware that it will not help her in anyway but it will be a big boost for the organisers, sponsors, spectators, media and for Indian badminton in general.

It will also help motivate a lot of young players in the country. It will bring more crowds and sponsors to badminton events in the country. I had done that in my prime. It is our duty to give back something to the system that nurtured us. If Saina can do that, she will be doing a great service to the game and the system from where she had come up.

Good luck, Saina. May all your dreams be fulfilled.

Prakash Padukone (As told to Kalyan Ashok)

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