It was in Prague that Indian Davis Cup player Divij Sharan received the pleasant news of being nominated for the 2020 Arjuna Award for tennis. I have known Divij since the age of 12 and his nomination gave me personal pleasure as I have always admired him as a very talented player of the country. Currently, Divij is in New York preparing for the US Open Championship and he spoke to The Daily Guardian from there. Excerpts:
Q. How exciting was it for you to hear about the nomination for the prestigious Arjuna Award?
A. I was travelling abroad and was in Prague when I started to get messages from friends and family. In fact, I would have received the award last year but I had missed the deadline by a day to file my papers. It would be an honour to receive the most prestigious award for a sportsperson.
Q. How were your initial years of playing tennis? Tell us something about your introduction to the tennis court.
A. I was always an athletic boy, participating in various sports very early in my childhood. When I was in Class 3 in Modern School, Vasant Vihar, a tennis academy was opened at the school. My father took me to the academy to play after school. My coach in the academy, Rajendar Jaiswal, saw talent in me and asked me to join the weekend advance programme, and the rest is history.
Q. From a very early age, you have been playing at a very high level. Can you throw some light on that?
A. At the age of 12 and 13, I played for Delhi, and at the age of 14, I was part of the Junior Davis Cup team. My journey has been constant and I have achieved at various levels.
Q. Every player has the support and understanding of their family. How good was the support from your family?
A. As a junior player, my mother, Anju Sharan, travelled with me locally as well as outside Delhi, taking very good care of me. Although my younger brother, Anuj, was left alone many times, our joint family structure allowed my mother to travel extensively. My father, Madhav Sharan, is a renowned HR professional working for an MNC. His support for me has been my backbone. My brother, Anuj, is my best friend and he has always supported me in all my lows and highs too.
Q. What was the turning point of your career?
A. My three consecutive finals in DSCL Championship was the turning point of my career, which gave my family the confidence that I can make it big. I was lucky to be selected by the AITA Junior Programme to travel in Europe and participate in the Grand Slam Championship. By then I was ranked #5 in the world of Junior Doubles. My second turning point was at SRCC, where after many years we had won the inter-college event in DU. My physical education director, Mallik, had called my father and advised him to pull me out of college as attendance was compulsory and my being in the college would have been a stumbling block for my future in tennis. My father took the advice seriously, and after my first-year exam, he pulled me out of college and told me to focus totally on tennis.
Q. Did you get any corporate support in your struggling days?
A. Yes, I can’t thank Indian Oil enough for giving me unstinted support during my tough time. I am still working with them. In 2008, Indian Oil inducted me on scholarship and assured me that once I am a graduate, they will absorb me in their regular roles. I used to take a few months off from my circuit and come back and study for my graduation exam from the open university.
Q. You are already 34, are you still hungry?
A. Yes, I am still very hungry. My highest rank has been 34 in Doubles Men and I would like to do better before hanging my boots. I feel I still have a few more years in me to play at the highest level.
Q. What message would you and your family like to share for upcoming players and their parents?
A. According to my father, you can choose to study in India and still be a worldclass player. My mother always says “persistency and consistency” are the keys to success. I personally feel that parents should not push their ideology and allow the child to balance the game and education. A basic qualification is a must for players.
The writer is a sports guru.
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IT’S A VICTORY FOR ENTIRE NATION: THOMAS CUP CHAMPION KIDAMBI SRIKANTH
The Indian badminton team created history by winning the maiden Thomas Cup title on Sunday after defeating 14-time champions Indonesia, the winner of the prestigious crown Kidambi Srikanth dedicated the victory to every Indian.
“Just very happy it was a great experience. We were in a place where no other Indian ever stood before. And we did it for the very first time for the country you know it just gives a lot of happiness. We still can’t believe that we won the Thomas cup, it’s a victory for the entire nation,” Kidambi Srikanth told ANI.
Talking about the tournament Srikanth said, “We always knew we can do well and we have the potential to do well in the tournament. But it requires all of us to do well and be consistent to perform as a team. And yeah we did not really think about being the champion. We were not overconfident but we believed in ourselves. We did everything that was required to win.”
Talking about how each and every player motivated themselves for their matches, Srikanth said, “To win the tournament and to do well and at the same time win all the matches the idea itself will help you and keep you motivated. If you want to win the tournament you will do everything that is required to win. So that motivation is always there.”
Not only did India win this title for the first time they also became only the sixth team to do so.
For all the players, this was a special win as it was a team event, before this their achievements have mostly been at the individual level.
“There was no control over emotions when all of us were jumping after the match. We just ran into the court from the Doug out definitely after I hit the last smash so there was absolutely no control over emotions yesterday,” said Srikanth.
An unrecognised Indian men’s team clinched a dominating 3-0 win over 14-time champions Indonesia to lift the Thomas Cup for the first time with Srikanth playing a vital role as he remained unbeaten in the tournament.
Speaking about interaction with PM Modi, Srikanth said, “I definitely did not expect that. It felt really nice to speak to him immediately after the match. It was amazing that the Prime Minister of India kept track of players and their performances in the tournament and he called and congratulate us and I can’t ask anything more than that. So I’m very thankful and would like to thank him for taking his time to talk to us. I think he talked to us for almost 10 minutes so all of us were very happy.” Coming into the match, Kidambi Srikanth produced a superb show to notch up a 21-15 23-21 win over Jonatan Christie.
DC enter top four after beating PBKS by 17 runs
Delhi Capitals boosted their playoff hopes on Monday as they defeated Punjab Kings by 17 runs in their IPL 2022 match at the Dr. DY Patil Sports Academy in Navi Mumbai. With this win, Rishabh Pant-led DC have now reached the 4th spot on the Indian Premier League 2022 table with 14 points against their name. The 5th placed Royal Challengers Bangalore also have 14 points but their negative Net Run Rate (NRR) has cost them dearly. Shardul Thakur took four wickets while Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav bagged two each as Delhi bowlers restricted Punjab in their chase of 160 runs.
Earlier, Mitchell Marsh’s blistering knock of 63 guided Delhi Capitals to a modest 159/7. Arshdeep Singh and Liam Livingstone bagged 3 wickets each for Punjab Kings. Chasing 160, Punjab openers Jonny Bairstow and Shikhar Dhawan enjoyed a good start as their score read 27/0 after three overs. But things quickly turned around for them as Anrich Nortje drew first blood for Delhi in form of dangerous-looking opener Bairstow (28) in the 4th over. The Englishman pulled but he didn’t get the elevation and found Axar Patel at the deep square leg.
The last over of the powerplay wreaked havoc on PBKS top-order as Shradul Thakur struck twice to remove Bhanuka Rajapaksa and opener Shikhar Dhawan (19). Punjab’s score read 54/3 after the first six overs. Axar Patel piled more misery on Punjab in the 7th over as he removed skipper Mayank Agarwal. Mayank was looking for a late cut but he failed to get the bat on the ball and the stumps were rattled.
Kuldeep Yadav then joined the wicket-taking party in the next over as he removed Liam Livingstone before striking again in the 10th over. He rattled the stumps of Harpreet Brar for his second wicket of the match. The 14th over produced more goods for DC as Axar uprooted the stumps of Rishi Dhawan. Jitesh Sharma was then joined by Rahul Chahar on the crease as the duo started clocking the runs for Punjab.
The pair stitched a 41-run partnership off 30 balls before Shradul dismissed Jitesh on 44 in the 18th over. Shradul took the wicket of Kagiso Rabada in the same over after getting hit for a six by the West Indian. The last two overs saw the inevitable happen as Delhi won the match by 17 runs.
Earlier, put to bat first, Delhi Capitals got off to a bad start as Liam Livingstone struck in the first delivery of the game for PBKS, removing David Warner for a golden duck.
Warner’s wicket bought fellow Australian Mitchell Marsh to the crease and he smashed Kagiso Rabada for 15 runs in the second over of the innings.
Marsh and Sarfaraz Khan were in red-hot form and hammered PBKS bowlers all around the ground. But they could not stand for long as Arshdeep Singh removed the well-set opener for 32 runs leaving Delhi at 51-2.
This bought Lalit Yadav to the crease to join hands with Marsh. The duo thrashed Punjab bowlers and gave their team a solid score of 98 with two wickets loss.
In the 11th over of the innings, Yadav fell to Arshdeep’s slow bouncer as his hit went for the catch. DC skipper Rishabh Pant then came to bat with Marsh but could stay for long as he was stumped by Jitesh Sharma. Rovman Powell tried to anchor the innings for DC but was removed cheaply for two runs by Livingstone. DC seemed to be in a spot at this point but Marsh kept piling runs at one end pacing his innings with watchful stroke play. He brought up his half-century in 40 balls. The Australian all-rounder struck three fours against Arshdeep Singh in the 18th over of the match.
At last, partnership bloomed between Marsh and Axar Patel but scoring was slow. PBKS heaved a sigh of relief as Rabada removed Mitchell Marsh after he had scored 63 taking DC’s total to 149/6 in 18.2 overs. Shardul Thakur then came to bat. In the last over of the innings, Arshdeep Singh restricted DC to 159/7 as he dismissed Thakur.
AUSSIE CRICKET LEGEND ANDREW SYMONDS DIES IN CAR CRASH
Legendary Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, aged 46, died in a car accident on Hervey Range Road near the Alice River Bridge in Queensland, Australia when his car left the road and rolled, a Queensland police statement said on Saturday night.
This is yet another tragic blow to Australian cricket. Symonds is the third Australian cricket legend to suddenly pass away this year following the tragic deaths of Shane Warne and Rod Marsh in March. Many are left heartbroken with tweets pouring in expressing shock over Symonds’ death. Australian cricket coach and former cricketer Jason Neil Gillespie expressed shock over the news of Symonds death. “Horrendous news to wake up to,” he tweeted, adding, “Utterly devastated. We are all gonna miss you mate.” Former teammate and Fox Cricket colleague Adam Gilchrist wrote, “This really hurts.”
According to reports by Senior cricket journalist Robert Craddock, the Aussie all-rounder was killed about 50kms outside Townsville on Saturday night.
As per a Queensland police statement, Symonds was in a single-car crash at about 10:30 pm.
Following the information of the accident, paramedics arrived at the scene but could not revive the former Australian cricketer. Symonds was the only person in the car. Symonds played 26 Tests for Australia and was an integral part of Australia’s white-ball sides that dominated the world between 1999 and 2007.
In playing retirement, both Warne and Symonds were valued members of Fox Cricket’s commentary team.
WRIDDHIMAN SAHA’S 67 POWERS GT TO SEVEN-WICKET WIN OVER CSK
Wriddhiman Saha smashed the third fifty of the ongoing season (67*) to power Gujarat Titans to a seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings here at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Sunday. It was not a memorable day for Chennai Super Kings on the field as the side sunk to their ninth defeat of the season and were outplayed by the Titans in all departments. With this win, GT maintains their top spot run in the points tally, having gathered 20 points. On the other hand, CSK is at the ninth position in the table with only eight points.
Chasing 134, Gujarat Titans got off a great start, with opener Wriddhiman Saha attacking the Super Kings bowlers aggressively, smashing the pacer Mukesh Choudhary for 12 runs in the first over itself. Saha spared no one in his early overs onslaught, though Choudhary ended up getting the worst of it. Gill from the other end stayed slow from the other end. While Saha kept piling runs at one end, attacking the likes of pacer Simarjeet Singh and spinner Mitchell Santner in a calculating way, even Gill started to show some aggression in the sixth over, smashing Santner for two consecutive fours.
At the end of the powerplay, GT were right on track, sitting at a healthy 53/0 with Saha (37*) and Gill (15*) having laid a solid foundation for the chase.
With CSK in need of a breakthrough and to restrict the run flow, Sri Lankan medium-pacer Matheesha Pathirana gave the side just that. The IPL debutant struck at his first ball itself, trapping Gill leg-before-wicket for 18 off 17, breaking the 59-run first-wicket stand between the duo.
This brought Aussie southpaw Matthew Wade to the crease, who smashed the debutant for two stylish boundaries, with one being a beautiful flick over backward square leg. The duo started building the innings for the Titans once again, with some consistent strike rotation. By the end of 10 overs, GT stood at a commanding 81/1 with Saha (43*) and Wade (18*).
In the 12th over of the game, spinner Moeen Ali broke the budding 31-run stand between Saha and Wade, dismissing the latter for 15-ball 20 with help from Shivam Dube, who took a great catch. This brought captain Hardik Pandya to the crease, who got off the mark by smashing a four with a sweep over deep midwicket. He was eventually trapped by Pathirana for just 7, with Dube catching from mid-off, reducing GT to 100/3.
Saha eventually brought his third fifty of the season, his 11th overall in the league. He was joined by David Miller on the crease. Both started to rotate strike, with a responsibility to take the Titans over the line without any more fall of wickets. Eventually, the equation was down to 7 in the final two overs. This proved to be a cakewalk for GT as Saha sealed a seven-wicket win for his side with a four at the first ball of the final over by Pathirana. Saha (67*) and Miller (15*) finished off things for GT and gave their side their tenth win of the season.
Matheesha Pathirana was the pick of the bowlers for CSK with 2/24. Moeen Ali also picked one wicket for CSK. Earlier, Gujarat Titans restricted Chennai Super Kings to 133/5 in the match No. 62 of the ongoing Indian Premier League 2022 here at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Ruturaj Gaikwad top-scored for CSK with 53 runs while N Jagadeesan remained unbeaten on 39. Rashid Khan, Alzarri Joseph, and Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore bagged one wicket each while Mohammed Shami picked two for GT.
Sports fraternity hails Indian badminton team for winning Thomas Cup
Sports fraternity on Sunday sent words of praise and extended congratulations to the Indian badminton team for winning the first-ever Thomas Cup trophy in Thailand.
Indian badminton team created history on Sunday as they lifted the Thomas Cup trophy for the very first time. In what was India’s first-ever appearance in the tournament finale, they defeated the record 14-time champions Indonesia in the Thomas Cup 2022 final at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand by 3-0 to lift the coveted trophy.
The star of India’s semi-final victory HS Prannoy took to Twitter to thank PM Narendra Modi for calling the whole team and wrote: “I am really honoured and thankful to our honourable Prime Minister Modiji @PMOIndia for calling and talking with me and the whole team and congratulating us for winning the Badminton World Cup ( Thomas cup) Really appreciate your great and continuous support.”
The legendary former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar congratulated the team and in a tweet said, “Historic moment for all Indians! What a day for Indian Badminton. Congratulations to the whole team on winning our maiden #ThomasCup title.”
Indian cricketer Virat Kohli also extended his congratulation message to the Indian Badminton team. “A historic achievement and a massive moment for Indian badminton. Congratulations Team India on winning the Thomas Cup,” he tweeted. Badminton ace Saina Nehwal also tweeted “ Congratulations TEAM INDIA Men’s Team for winning the THOMAS CUP Title … Great win #ThomasUberCup2022@srikidambi @lakshya_sen @satwiksairaj @Shettychirag04 @PRANNOYHSPRI.”
Olympic medallist Abhinav Bindra wrote on Twitter, “What a historic day! An incredible achievement by an incredible Team India to win the #ThomasCup for the first time ever!! Bounced back from tough situations on numerous occasions to win Gold. Kudos to all the players and coaches. Champions, all of you!”
Former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir took Twitter and wrote,” History made. Welcome to India #Thomascup! Phenomenal! Jai Hind.” Indian Football skipper Sunil Chhetri wrote: “What a moment for Indian sport – we are Thomas Cup champions for the first-ever time, and we beat the best to make it happen. Congrats to the players and staff. Some things take time, but don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.”
Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh congratulated the Indian Badminton team in his tweet and wrote: “Created history and in style! Congratulations @srikidambi @lakshya_sen @satwiksairaj @Shettychirag04 @PRANNOYHSPRI on bringing the Thomas Cup home. Proud of you champs #ThomasCup2022.”
Indian cricketer Ajinkya Rahane wrote on his Twitter: “Congratulations Team India for winning the Thomas Cup! This has been a journey that you all can be very proud of.”
No Indian team has previously reached the final of the Thomas and Uber Cup in its 70-plus year history.
Indian men reached the Thomas Cup semi-finals in 1952, 1955 and 1979 while the women’s team made it to the Uber Cup top-four in 2014 and 2016.
PM calls up badminton champions, lauds their win
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi interacted on phone with the Indian Badminton team players who have scored historic win at the Thomas Cup, today.
Prime Minister congratulated the team and said that sports analyst will have to count this as India’s finest sporting win. He said that he was especially happy to see that the team did not lose any round.
The Prime Minister asked the players at what stage did they feel that they are going to win. Kidambi Srikanth informed him that after the quarter final, the team’s determination to see it to the end became very strong. He also told the Prime Minister that team spirit helped and every player gave his 100 percent. The Prime Minister said that the coaches also deserve all the appreciation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Lakshya Sen that he will have to give him ‘Bal Mithai’ from Almora. The ace shuttler hails from the Devbhoomi of Uttarakhand. Prime Minister noted that Lakshaya is third generation player. Lakshya Sen informed that his father was present during the tournament. He also echoed Shrikant and said that after quarter finals, belief in victory became even more concrete. HS Prannoy also said that winning quarter final was very important. After winning that, it became clear that Indian team was in position to take on any team. He said that team support resulted in defeating strong teams like Malaysia. The Prime Minister also congratulated Satviksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty for their victories. PM Modi broke into Marathi with Chirag Shetty who informed him that nothing tops becoming world champion that too from India. “You all have achieved such a momentous feat. Entire team deserves kudos”. He invited them to his residence along with their coaches, on their return to India as he wished to talk to them and listen to their experiences.
Prime Minister asked for the victorious team’s message for the budding athletes and young children who are taking up sports like Badminton, Table Tennis or swimming. Srikanth spoke for the team and said that today, there is excellent support for sports in India. Due to efforts of Sports Authority of India, Government, sports federations and at elite level- Target Olympics Podium Scheme TOPS, the sportspersons are feeling very well supported. If this continues, we think, India will see many more champions. He told the young children who are taking up sports of their choice that if they can give their 100 per cent then there is great support for them in India in the sports field. There are good coaches and infrastructure, if they are committed, they can do well at the international level. “If they can work with 100 per cent dedication, they will definitely succeed,” said Kidambi Srikanth.
The PM conveyed his regards and appreciation for the parents of the players as it is a challenging task to encourage children for sports and stay with them till the end. The PM joined them in their jubilation and chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ at the end of the call.
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