Not very often does one see in Indian sport a gifted player waiting in the wings even as the reigning champion is making waves. And, this is what exactly is happening in Indian badminton. Even as World No. 3 Saina Nehwal is justifiably hogging all the limelight, an unobtrusive and a quiet performer, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, is slowly but surely inching her way into the elite circuit.
And, if proof was needed of her growing reputation it was there for all to see in the recent Krishna Khaitan All India Tournament in Chennai when this Hyderabadi girl won four titles – a double each in the under-16 and the under-19 categories. This is a rare feat for any shuttler from the city given the intense competition which is normally the case in the Chennai tournament.
Sindhu, who early this reached the quarter-final in the World Junior Championship in Mexico and eventually finished fifth in the overall placings, is the star to watch, according Pullela Gopi Chand, former All England champion and now chief national coach. No wonder that this lanky, 16-year-old shuttler, daughter of former volleyball international and Arjuna Awardee P. V. Ramana, is already on the radar of the prestigious Olympic Gold Quest which signed up a deal which should take care of most of her financial worries.
“Yes, this is a terrific gesture and eases a lot of burden on us. And coupled with this Sindhu even signed a sponsorship contract with Airports Authority of India. Things are looking good,” says the proud father.
Gopi says the most striking feature in Sindhu's game is her attitude and the never-say-die spirit. For her part, Sindhu doesn't want to sound too confident or in the mood to talk big. She has her feet on the ground and stresses that she is too young and can still wait for things to fall in place. “I am still in the learning process and still have a long way to go. The only good thing is that I have been winning major titles at regular intervals,” she says.
The chief national coach insists that if someone is looking for someone talented and really hard-working then Sindhu stands as a perfect example. Exactly the reason she has been included in the 2010 Commonwealth Games though not figuring in the seniors' squad. “Yes, this is to ensure that she keeps improving,” pointed out Gopi. Sindhu, a first year Intermediate student of St. Ann's College (Mehdipatnam), is now ranked India No. 1 in the under-16 category and finished runner-up in the Junior nationals (under-19) category.
Interestingly, Sindhu is ranked World No. 156 in the women's rankings, somewhere similar to what Saina's rankings were when she joined Gopi's Academy. “Yes, it is a huge experience to train at the truly world-class Academy for almost daily you either play or watch the great Saina in action,” says Sindhu, who incidentally took to badminton inspired by Gopi's All England title in 2001. If the early promise is any indication and if only Sindhu continues to show the same commitment and sets big goals, the day will not be far when she can be in the media glare for all good things in badminton.