V. Kanthi from Tamil Nadu talks about her experiences at the recent IBL, being chosen for the Hyderabad Hotshots, and her hopes for the upcoming Senior Nationals
Even as she talks to me at the Alumni Club in Chennai before her practice session with an up-and-coming men’s player, V. Kanthi is busy with her mobile phone.
Though weeks have passed since the Indian Badminton League concluded in Mumbai, with the Hyderabad Hotshots (HH) emerging triumphant, V. Kanthi, a member of the Hyderabad team, is still to get over the IBL hangover. “We still miss each other’s company,” says the 18-year-old badminton player from Chennai even as she texts her friends from Hyderabad Hotshots.
As the second women’s singles player, after Saina Nehwal, for the Hyderabad franchise, Kanthi did not get to play a match, but enjoyed the atmosphere thoroughly. “IBL”, says Kanthi, “was first of all fun. I made quite a few friends. Spoke to Aparna (Balan) and Ashwini (Ponappa) and others.”
Sitting on the sidelines, Kanthi says was a great learning experience, especially watching how senior players practice before and after a match, how they handle themselves, and how they interact with fans and media. “I learnt a lot though I didn’t play. I learnt a lot from senior players such as Saina (Nehwal) and Taufiq (Hidayat). And Taufiq was more than a player. He taught us a lot.”
Pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Kanthi realises what the IBL has done to badminton. “It has popularised the sport. Earlier in India, cricket was the most popular sport and nothing after that. Now badminton is catching up. All badminton players are happy about it,” she says.
With no proper system in Chennai, it was a struggle for Kanthi to find a place to practice, shuttling between Kuala Lumpur and Chennai. Now after the IBL exposure, her belief in herself has grown manifold. “Before IBL, I was not sure where I was. It has given me a lot more confidence. It has taught me to stay focused,” she says.
Kanthi believes the defeat at the hands of Delhi Smashers in Lucknow was a wake-up call for the team. “That loss,” she says, “inspired us to work harder. We were a bit complacent in that match. The loss came at the right time.”
The Tamil Nadu numero uno women’s player initially didn’t believe it when her friends told her about her being chosen for HH. “I was in Malaysia at that time. I didn’t expect to be in IBL because I had injured my back after the senior Nationals, and was training in Kuala Lumpur to get back into shape. Somebody sent me a message saying, ‘You are part of the team’. I didn’t believe it. Again somebody texted me saying, ‘You have been auctioned. Go and check.’ Only then did I start collecting information about IBL,” says Kanthi, whose auction price was $3000.
According to Kanthi, the spectator turn-out for every match of HH was something she
didn’t expect. “The crowd was more than expected. Every match had full attendance. In Hyderabad alone, there was a big demand for tickets. The stands were almost full. Many spectators brought drums which they beat vociferously, as they enjoyed every moment of IBL,” says Kanthi, who is all praise for HH owner PVP Group and HH's support staff.
What irks Kanthi is the lack of courts for players to practice and a proper system in Chennai. “We had to beg for courts. All the coaches are dedicated, but where are the courts? Almost every State has got an academy/court with a coach, physio and fitness trainer. There might be good coaches in Chennai, but they are losing interest due to lack of courts. There are a number of talented players, but nobody to guide them,” she says.
Kanthi has been training in Kuala Lumpur under the watchful eyes of chief coach Yogendran at New Vision Badminton Academy.
“It has been fruitful experience so far. They have done a lot to correct my strokes,” she says.
Having missed many All-India tournaments last year, Kanthi is keen to take part in as many tournaments as possible this season. Besides she wants to perform to her full potential in the forthcoming Senior Nationals to be held in New Delhi. “I want to do really well there,” she says.