Tennis Most sportswomen agree that Sania’s ire in the Mahesh Bhupati-Leander Paes fracas is justified
Hell hath no fury for a Sania scorned. One is tempted to re-phrase the immortal words of the Bard of Avon after Sania Mirza, the glamour girl of Indian tennis, went ballistic and blasted the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Leander Paes and her good friend Mahesh Bhupathi, for allegedly taking her for granted while selecting the Indian’s mixed doubles team for the London Olympics.
Sania, went as far to dub it an insult on Indian womanhood and charged that the AITA was trying to use her as bait to appease Paes, after the association did a u-turn on the men’s doubles team. But the question is why did Sania wait till she got her wild card entry for the Olympics, to vent her ire? All along, she watched the soap opera between Bhupathi, Paes, Rohan Bopanna and AITA unfold. She stood quietly on the sidelines and the moment the wild card arrived, she felt emboldened to speak her mind.
True, Indian sportswomen have striven harder than their male counterparts to prove their worth and there exists a gender bias in most disciplines. Sania’s new avatar as a spokesperson for Indian sportswomen in general, did please quite lot of them, but not all shared her views.
As Metro Plus spoke to some of the sportswomen of Bangalore and the country, their reactions were quite revealing. Ashwini Nachappa, the star sprinter of yesteryears, who did the nation proud in many international meets, including the Asian Games and the Asian track and Field Championship, has been an outspoken votary of women’s rights in sports and backed Sania.
“The AITA has messed it up and everybody knows that Sania is on Mahesh’s bandwagon and has won two Grand Slams with him. It is ridiculous to pair her with Leander Paes without even seeking her views,” says Ashwini.
Ashwini agrees with Sania’s charge on being used as bait. “Yes, she has been used as a commodity. Our sportswomen not only need to be treated as equal, but also treated with lot more respect and without discrimination.”
Former national badminton champion Trupti Murgunde also feels that Sania was at the receiving end. “Having said that, it is an honour to play for the nation at the Olympics and hope she gives her best. It happens in all sports, for instance, I was dropped from the national team for the Commonwealth Games in 2010, when I was the national champion,” says Trupti.
Ace woman-cueist and world champion Chitra Magimairaj also stands up for Sania. “Sports-women are discriminated and that is a bitter truth in every discipline. It is quite sad to watch the tennis tamasha and Sania being used as a pawn. I however, feel if Sania had spoken up much earlier, even before getting the wild card, her stock would have really gone sky high.” Chitra says she suffered the misfortune of missing out on an Asian Games medal in 2008, as the coach ignored her plea to allow her to play in singles instead of doubles.
“All along I was training to win a singles medal and I was really heart broken. The coach would not have dared to treat a male player like that.” Chitra’s Karnataka team mate and current women’s world billiards champion Uma Devi, adds: “I am yet to be recognised for my victory in the World Championship. That’s the way system works.”
While most sportswomen favoured Sania, outspoken Olympian swimmer Nisha Millet says: “Sania is in the Olympics as a wild card and not as a qualifier. She should be grateful that she got a free ride to the Olympics. In our sport (swimming) we have to qualify to be in Olympics. She is right to express her preference for Mahesh but then Leander is no mean player and it should be an honour to play with him.” Nisha says that there was too much media blitz around Sania.
“Take Saina, that girl has achieved so much in badminton and is world No.5 and there is Deepika Kumari in archery, who has been performing in an outstanding manner, they are our big medal prospects and not Sania.”