Referee and match official Suresh Kumar feels Saina Nehwal’s performance at the Olympics will bring more youngsters into the game

At 60 plus Suresh Kumar would pass off as another balding grey haired coach. But on the badminton courts — be it at the Karnataka Badminton Association (KBA) or anywhere else, the man is a task-master.

Perched up on the umpires chair and running the show as the chief referee, Suresh commands respect and regard. He does not impose himself...but manages to get the work done. He is very passionate about what he does.

Suresh started as a basketball player. His father Ramanna was a reputed footballer and was fondly called ‘Mysore Ramanna’ during his playing days as a striker with Bangalore Blues in the 50’s and early 60’s. One of his brothers, R. Anil Kumar was an athlete while the other, Prabhakar, donned State colours and captained the junior basketball team.

Joining ITI in 1969, Suresh Kumar formed a youth basketball team. However, it was the wooden badminton courts at the club that drew the attention of the youngster. Suresh slowly fell in love with badminton and was influenced by the late Ramesh Padukone, who took the youngster under his wings. From a steady club level player, Suresh was urged to take to umpiring the game.

Thus began Suresh Kumar’s journey. It remains his passion even after numerous district, State and national championships. In 1979, Suresh appeared for the National umpires exam and got his first major assignment at the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982. He soon became one of the most sought after umpires in the South .

In 1998, Suresh passed the Grade I exam and bagged a place in the referee panel. If he is not officiating, Suresh is either coaching at the ITI Sports Club’s summer camps or at the KBA courts.

Asked about the talent in the State, Suresh says “The talent especially in the districts is immense. Sadly, the players lack good job opportunities. The Railways are not as interested. This is not a good trend.”About the doubles controversy at the London Games and Saina Nehwal’s bronze winning effort, he quips, “The controversy is unfortunate, but it has happened before. I can understand middle level teams manipulating the results to suit their purpose but not top ranked countries.”

He adds, “Saina’s feat is praiseworthy. Although touted as a medal prospect from the very start, Saina was nervous and error-prone in her bronze medal play-off. Her opponent got injured and she won the bronze. It is a boost for badminton in India. We will see many players take up the sport in India.” On the need for the younger players to take up officiating duties, he contends “There are no clinics or courses for the youngsters. The State associations and the federations should conduct regular camps for the officials too. They must bring in foreign officials to impart new changes and systems to India.”