“Saina comes from a middle-class family and has been groomed into a world-class player in the face of awesome odds”
Yes, you read that right. Even odds can be ‘awesome’! These words are printed behind the cover page of the book, ‘Saina Nehwal: An Inspirational biography’ written by TS Sudhir. What does it take to become the World No. 2 badminton player and penetrate the seemingly impenetrable Chinese badminton-fortress, is the topic that is predominantly discussed in this book.
This book is meant to be Saina Nehwal’s biography, but the author has written quite exhaustively about other sports-persons like Gopi Chand, Sania Mirza, etc., as well.
At the age of 10, would you wake up at 4 AM and travel 25 KM on a scooter (to and fro) to the coaching academy? Would you do it before and after school? Well, that’s precisely what this young champion did.
No doubt, any sports-person needs to be regular with practice/exercise, put in a lot of efforts/hard-work, be dedicated/disciplined, etc. Most of them are, in fact. But what differentiates a champion from the also-ran?
“Yes, I will be happy to be the world number one. But my main aim is to win an Olympic gold and also the All-England. Plus win all the Super Series as well”
This was in reply to a question asked by the author (to Saina), and he is quick to add,
“I could not help wondering why every sports-person in India could not be as aggressively ambitious as Saina”
Attitude & Aggression. Loads of them. Of course, when embarking upon a difficult journey, most of us show plenty of attitude and positivity. But in face of repeated failure, can we sustain that attitude? Well, Saina Nehwal did and we all know the results. In fact, one of her coaches says that she was kept away from senior players because they were pessimistic about beating the Chinese and indulged in negative-talking frequently.
What about the ‘support’ from parents? Sample what happened, after a young Saina Nehwal lost a match –
“Her mother Usha Rani was standing beside the grill. The moment Saina crossed, Usha Rani slapped her. I rushed asking why and her reply was, ‘She didn’t play the game the way she should have. She just did not concentrate’ ”
Well, one cannot exactly become a champion by watching inspirational movies and reading inspirational books, can they? Saina was very fortunate (according to the author) to have parents who supported her (their?) dreams of becoming a world champion in badminton. Of course, her father was driving the scooter and her mother was sitting behind, while going on long drives to coaching sessions. In spite of being a middle class family, they somehow managed all the expenses (training, tours, etc.) until they were able to get sponsors.
“Statistics show that Indian sport loses three out of every four players in the years when they are between class X and XII. Most young players are compelled to choose studies over sport. Saina is among the few who haven’t”
Here once again, the role of parents in supporting the decision to play professionally, even though it requires dropping out of education, is pivotal. But then, for every Saina Nehwal, there are lakhs of unknown players who did not make it big. It’s a huge risk and parents know that. It’s either the gold mine or… well!
Even though this book is the author’s first, he has succeeded in sustaining the interest of the reader, throughout. Having a background in journalism helps, I guess. The author has taken a lot of pains to interview many people (parents, coaches, fellow-players, etc.) to come up with this (sort of) comprehensive work. Of course, that’s required when one is writing a pre-mature biography, I guess.
The order in which events are described might confuse a few, but overall, it is well written. I did think that in a book titled as it is, the description of other athletes could have been minimized, a bit, but all that information maybe required to understand the context and the system better. The author also goes quite deep into the sports-system we have and suggests what could be done to make it better.
- You can buy Saina Nehwal: An Inspirational Biography by T. S. Sudhir from Flipkart or Amazon.in in India. [Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. I may get a small commission if you click on them and buy the product. Your price will not change.]