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Better days for badminton?

K. KEERTHIVASAN
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BADMINTON Will the Tamil Nadu men's team cash in on its fine performance in the recent South Zone Inter-State Championship?

SUCCESS, THE SPUR The Tamil Nadu team (from left) S. Subramanian, S. S. Kannan, Siddharth Jain, and coaches T. Maran and B. Rajini Kanth PHOTO: R. SHIVAJI RAO
SUCCESS, THE SPUR The Tamil Nadu team (from left) S. Subramanian, S. S. Kannan, Siddharth Jain, and coaches T. Maran and B. Rajini Kanth PHOTO: R. SHIVAJI RAO

W ay back in 1997, T. Maran, then a player, took the Tamil Nadu Badminton Association (TNBA) to court for its lack of professionalism, including non-conduct of tournaments. He had presented a list of 10 grievances arguing for the “welfare of the players”.

Thirteen years later, Maran, now a coach of the State men's team, feels things are looking up and that most of the questions he raised have found answers.

As proof, Tamil Nadu finished second — it lost to Andhra in the final — in the South Zone Inter-State championship in Sivakasi recently — the last time Tamil Nadu finished first in the tournament was in 1980 in Kottayam under the captaincy of P. G. Chengappa.

Shot in the arm

“I am really happy with Tamil Nadu's performance. It will motivate us further,” said Maran, after the TNBA felicitated the team with cash awards.

“Everybody played their part. S.S. Kannan was the pick of the lot. For his age (35 years), he was good. He won the crucial third singles match. Siddharth Jain used his experience exceptionally well and won doubles matches with M.R. Manikandan. Aditya Elango defeated higher ranked opponents while Velavan and Subramanian, both young players, gave their best. Overall, it was a fantastic team effort.”

Maran said the biggest problem facing Chennai is lack of a proper training centre for players. “There is no infrastructure. As a State player, you can't play anywhere unless you are a member of a club,” he said.

Recalling the days when players used to play at the University Union Indoor Stadium (Chetpet) in the mornings and evenings, Maran said such a situation seems impossible now. With the Badminton Association of India planning to set up two academies in Tamil Nadu soon — one in Chennai, Maran felt Tamil Nadu could hope to produce more champions.

For Siddharth Jain, former India No.2, it was team spirit and camaraderie that enabled the team defeat higher ranked outfits such as Karnataka (quarterfinals) and Kerala (semifinals). Jain described the team as a good blend of youth and experience. “The coaches helped us formulate strategies. The team members shared a rapport, and we enjoyed our journey,” he said.

Jain suggested that more State-level tournaments and camps before the South Zone and National championships would go a long way towards improving the team's performance.

Duration of camps

Rajini Kanth, who assists Maran, said the duration of the camps should be longer unlike the Sivakasi camp which was short. “It was held for just a week. It was also the first time ever that S. Subramanian and V. Velavan were pairing up for the doubles,” he said. “Against Karnataka in the quarterfinals, our third match, featuring the doubles pair Jain and Manikandan, started at midnight. It was a close match which we won. We were excited throughout.”

The biggest benefit of the South Zone tournament, said Rajini, is that the players' confidence has increased manifold. “Aditya Elango's victory over the reigning Youth Olympics silver medallist H.S. Prannoy (Kerala) would have strengthened the determination of other youngsters to take on better players.”

Maran said the other change evident in today's generation is the desire to excel. “They are not satisfied with just participating. They want to win and that's the huge difference I've witnessed in our players.”

Tamil Nadu has for long been complaining about the lack of an exclusive facility for badminton. With that problem going to be solved soon, the TNBA should start being more pro-active. Bagging second place in the South Zone tournament is an excellent starting point.

K. KEERTHIVASAN

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