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Call for consistency

All it needs for badminton player Sachin Ratti is to be consistent to be good enough to make his presence felt at the international level.


THIS SACHIN is determined to step into the elite zone. For almost four years now, the 22-year-old Sachin Ratti from Punjab has been a fringe player never really playing to his potential in Indian badminton. And, it is not for nothing does he have the creditable distinction of beating All England champion Pullela Gopichand twice - once in the Udaipur Major Ranking tournament last year and only recently in the final of the Kanpur All India tournament.

The handsome shuttler is clearly the focus of attention of the coaching panel, headed by the Dronacharya Awardee S.M.Arif, in the national camps. Serious efforts are on to make him believe in himself that he has the game to take on the best in the world. What he lacks is consistency. This gifted player, who took to sport at the age of eight -- thanks to his father-cum-State coach Chaman Lal Ratti -- is also aware of the expectations of many badminton lovers. "I am working on my net-play to be more consistent at the international level,'' he says. Part of the intensive schedule for him is the `target' training. This includes fine-tuning his technique to meet the international requirements where points have to be earned and not gifted. For instance, Sachin is being made to hit to the corners and go back to the baseline to return with precision and his usual power. One of the major worries for the Punjab lad is that he seemed to have developed the uncanny knack of conceding too many negative points from a position of strength. To illustrate this, Arif points to the fact that Sachin, despite leading 12-8 in the decider against Chinese Lin Dan in the ABC championship recently, lost the game giving an impression that he was happy enough the way he was playing rather than deliver the final blow.

Looking at the recent past, Sachin is visibly thrilled at beating his illustrious team-mate, Gopichand, in the Kanpur final. "I think no one else has played as many times against Gopi as I have done. This, in a way, makes me more familiar with his game. May be, I capitalised on the chances that came my way and more importantly played my normal game,'' he recalled with his face wearing the predictable smile. "I am really grateful to Arif Sir and to my coaches, Madhumita and Vikram Singh and even Gopi for constantly helping me in improving my game,'' he says to another query. If only he combines the tenacity and grit of Abhinn Shyam Gupta and the class and consistency of Gopi, Sachin Ratti can well be a truly different player.

Now, there is a two-pronged strategy to his preparations - improve his fitness and concentration levels. Interestingly, he is one of the very few sportspersons who has no complaints at all. "I am happy with whatever little I could achieve and my success or failure in future depends on how dedicated and determined I will be. I will be solely responsible for anything in my career,'' says the honest shuttler. He has no personal goals like winning this tournament or the other. Loves to take match by match.

And, to attain consistency in international circuit, Sachin has a six-hour, daily training schedule.

It is disappointing to note that despite winning the New Zealand Open in 1999 defeating the then World No. 20, Rio Suaya of Australia, this talented shuttler has rarely achieved anything noteworthy at the highest level.

But, Gopichand, never to shun any talented player, strongly believes that the time has come for Sachin to come good at international level. "Mind you, he has the best shuttle contact in India, got a very clean and attacking game,'' compliments the champion shuttler. But, there is the word of caution too from the current legend in Indian badminton.

"Basically, you have to master the technique of clinching points rather than wait for the opponent to make mistakes. And, eliminate the margin of error in your game to avoid being on the defensive,'' says Gopi. He also points out that Sachin can probably get away in Indian circuit because of the clipped shuttles but he has to be very careful at the higher level. The Manchester Commonwealth Games, now on, could be a real testing ground for Sachin Ratti to judge for himself how far he had progressed or where are the limitations. Will Sachin Ratti, the head ticket collector in Northern Railway, raise the level of his game to collect a couple of major titles in his kitty or be content with his current stature which seems to have got stuck somewhere? At the end of the Games, one can get a clear hint at which way he is heading for in international circuit.


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