At 34, I am still hungry, says Divij Sharan - The Daily Guardian
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At 34, I am still hungry, says Divij Sharan

Davis Cup player Divij Sharan talks to The Daily Guardian on his feelings after being nominated for the Arjuna Award, his sporting journey so far, and his future plans.

Hemanshu Chaturvedi

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Ace tennis player Divij Sharan.

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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I try to learn from calm minds like Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna: Manvir Singh

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Striker Manvir Singh who headed to the National team after a successful domestic season maintains that nothing is constant as a striker. In a candid interview, Manvir opens up about learning from Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna, his maturity, the forthcoming match against Afghanistan and talks at length about him playing as a striker and also as a winger. Excerpts

Q. How much have you matured as a striker in recent years?

A. A striker is all about confidence and that only comes through the game time he gets. The more you get to play, the more mature you become. It’s all about your intuition, the movements inside the box, sniffing it, and eventually the finishing. I reiterate, you can only get all of that when you get to play. Otherwise, your talent and determination will always be on the bench.

Q. What is the biggest takeaway for a striker?

A. I have learnt that nothing is constant. There will be days when you will score and there will be misses too. A striker needs to move on and stay focused.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. My job becomes easier when I play alongside top strikers. I just watch Sunil-bhai and try to imitate his calm in front of the goal. At the end of the day, that ice-cool head makes all the difference. That’s education for me. In a match a striker won’t get a million chances.

There will be days when you will get just one chance, or maybe a half chance. If you are able to make it count, you have done your job. I also need to mention that I look up to Roy Krishna’s calm in front ofthe goal. They are my heroes.

Q. How would you describe yourself as a player – a winger, or as a striker?

A. At the outset, I was an out and out striker. But a player needs to be flexible. Modern-day football is not just about sticking to one position and role. I have been playing on the wings – both on the right-wing and left-wing in recent times. I feel that has helped me understand the dynamics of a team’s attacking philosophy. It is a plus point for any player.

Q. Sunil has been there for so long. How do you describe his longevity?

A. My dad Kuldip Singh who played for PSEB as a striker and scored quite a few goals in the Federation Cup, Durand Cup and the IFA Shield besides a host of other tournaments always mentions to me to learn fromSunil-bhai the art of his longevity. In fact, he had played against him, and always tells me: “When you are seeing him from close, learn as much as you can. Sunil’s speciality is that he has been there for so long. And that is extremely hard work.” Being around him I have already taken my baby steps. The rest is forme to sustain, and improve.

What can we expect from the next match against Afghanistan?

We need to sustain the momentum gathered in the match against Bangladesh and even in the 0-1 loss against Qatar. But everyone is aware that all of that is past. The match on 15th is a fresh canvas. We need to paint it in the right manner. The coach has been constantly working with us. We need to pay him back.

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