Mir Mahboob Ali has coached many big names, but seldom sees the spotlight

There's an old-world charm to Nizam Club and its badminton coach Mir Mahboob Ali. He's no longer with the academy he ran for decades at the IRISET courts in Secunderabad, where so many of today's badminton's big guns found their feet. Sadly, but for Shruthi Kurien, none acknowledges his mentoring in the making of their careers.

There's no bitterness however. “What we know, we teach them,” he says, as his wards gather around him, like an eager brood around an affectionate mother hen. The regard they have for him is evident from the two-wheelers his wards have gifted him at every venue he has coached. The concern shown by Mohammed Adnan, 18, runner-up in a recent inter-club championship, is genuine as he recounts Ali's near fatal accident outside the club's exit gate recently. So does the sibling trio of Asif, Soheb and Mukkaram, who hang on every word that proceeds from Ali's lips.

Time was when badminton legend Prakash Padukone's parents would urge the would-be world-beater, then a boy, to watch Ali, his strokes and court-craft. So would the sport's elder statesman rise or greet Ali every time they ran into each other. From eminent film-maker K. Vishwanath to Junior NTR, his pupils range from children of past players to politicians of stature.

“The respect my players enjoy is my wealth,” concludes Ali, who neither hankers for reward or recognition, which have been denied him for decades.