UNIMAGINATIVE scheduling and a lukewarm response from top shuttlers took much of the sheen off the second all-India J. R. D. Tata senior prize money badminton tournament held at Jamshedpur. After having done so well in its inaugural year and ensuring the participation of everyone excepting P. Gopi Chand, it was a big disappointment that the second edition could not attract the cream of Indian badminton.
The absence of National champion Anup Sridhar, B. Chetan Anand, his wife Jwala Gutta and doubles specialist, V. Diju, was understandable, for all of them are abroad training and competing in international meets.
The major let-down was the absence of the top-ranked Arvind Bhat and Trupti Murgunde, both of Petroleum. Bhat decided to take it easy after winning the Valsad and Mumbai prize money meets. Trupti too took the same route as she had accumulated points winning the Valsad meet and making the semifinals at Mumbai.
The absence of the big guns gave J. B. S. Vidyadhar of Petroleum, seeded fourth in this meet, and top-seed B. R. Meenakshi, also of Petroleum, the chance to win their first title of the season.
Vidyadhar, seeded fourth behind Abhinn Shyam Gupta and Nikhil Kanetkar (both of Petroleum) and Utsav Mishra of Uttar Pradesh, smashed his way to the title round where he overpowered promising teenager Anand Pawar in straight games. More than the defeat of Pawar, Vidyadhar's demolition of top-seed Gupta in the semifinals was the talking point of the meet.
Of late Gupta has become Vidyadhar's bunny and has lost a number of times without much of a fight. Vidyadhar's all-out attacking game is proving too much for Gupta, who is known to wear down opponents with his toss, drop and occasional smash system of play.
If Vidyadhar took exactly an hour to crush Gupta in three games, he took a little over half that time to have the measure of Anand Pawar, son of former India international and five-times doubles National champion and now a senior coach, Uday Pawar. "Anand could have played one more year in junior, but I thought it prudent to push him into the senior rank. Anand justified my belief by reaching the final,'' Uday Pawar said with pride. Vidyadhar won Rs. 32,000, while Anand took home Rs. 16,000.
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) had scheduled the Thomas Cup selection trials in Bangalore from December 15, just three days after the end of this championship. The BAI had invited the top 12 men and women for the trials and some of them thought it was not feasible to participate at Jamshedpur and then travel to Bangalore.
Added to this was the scheduling of the Petroleum inter-unit meet just a day after the Thomas Cup trials.
Almost all the top players represent different units of Petroleum and as an Indian Oil employed player put it, "playing so many matches within a fortnight will be too much.''
The J. R. D. Tata tournament, a four-star meet, offered Rs. 4 lakhs in prize money and is the only one of its kind in Eastern India. The BAI would do well to allot dates for this event keeping in mind all other tournaments so that neither the players nor the tournament would suffer owing to want of participation.
It was an excellent tournament for B. R. Meenakshi, as she won a triple crown: the singles, the women's doubles (with Aparna Balan) and the mixed doubles (with Sanave Thomas).
The singles victory earned her Rs. 27,600 and she took home Rs. 52,000 for winning the three titles. For Thomas, it was a double crown — the men's and the mixed doubles.
When Meenakshi faced Shruti Kurian in the women's singles final, both were in line for their first title of the new season.
Meenakshi was stopped by Trupti inValsad, while Shruti was beaten by Saina Nehwal inMumbai. It was Meenakshi who had the last laugh in Jamshedpur.
The Jamshedpur District Badminton Association in collaboration with Tata Steel did a good job in organising the five-day meet. Former All-England champion P. Gopi Chand graced the final day and gave away the trophies and cash awards along with the Deputy Managing Director, Corporate Services, Arun Narain Singh.The results
Men's singles final: (4) J. B. S. Vidyadhar (Pet) bt Anand Pawar (Mah) 15-6, 15-7. Semifinals: Vidyadhar bt (1) Abhinn Shyam Gupta (Pet) 15-1, 9-15, 15-2; Pawar bt (2) Nikhil Kanetkar (Pet) 15-13, 7-15, 15-3.
Doubles final: (1) Sanave Thomas & Rupesh Kumar (Ker) bt (2) Jaseel P. Ismail & J. B. S. Vidyadhar (Pet) 15-2, 15-7. Semifinals: Thomas & Kumar bt Jayan James & T. Dinesh (AP) 15-3, 15-10; Ismail & Vidyadhar bt Markose Bristow & K. A. Anish (Ker) 15-6, 15-8.
Women's singles final: (1) B. R. Meenakshi (Pet) bt (2) Shruti Kurian (Pet) 13-12, 11-7. Semifinals: Meenakshi bt Barnali Raha (Rly) 13-11, 11-6; Shruti bt Dhanya Nair (Rly) 11-5, 11-7.
Doubles final: (1) B. R. Meenakshi (Pet) & Aparna Balan (Ker) bt Barnali Raha & Amrita Mukherjee (Rly) 15-4, 15-9. Semifinals: Meenakshi & Balan bt Dhanya Nair & Neha Makhwana (Rly) 15-12, 15-3; Barnali & Amrita bt Parul Rawat & Poonam Tiwari (Rly) 15-2, 16-17, 15-5.
Mixed doubles final: (2) Sanave Thomas & B. R. Meenakshi (Pet) bt Mayank Behl & Barnali Raha (Rly) 15-2, 15-5. Semifinals: Behl & Barnali bt (1) Rupesh Kumar (Pet) & Aparna Balan (Ker) 15-9, 15-12; Thomas & Meenakshi bt Jaseel P. Ismail (Pet) & Dhanya Nair (Rly) 15-5, 4-15, 15-7.