By Vishesh Roy
New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Hyderabad FC had finished at the bottom of the points table in the Indian Super League (ISL) last season, but the side has managed to change their fortunes around this season as they are in with a chance to qualify for the semi-finals in the ongoing seventh season.
The side will clash against FC Goa on Sunday and this match is crucial for Hyderabad to qualify for the playoffs. Manuel Marquez’s side is currently at the fifth spot with 28 points from 19 games and a win against Goa will take them to 31 points.
Ahead of the crucial encounter, Hyderabad FC co-owner Varun Tripuraneni interacted with ANI on how he views the ISL season 7 for his team and how he keeps his team upbeat in crucial stages.
“I think it has been a great season, we did not have a good season in our first outing last year. To turn things around, it needed a massive effort from not just the players and coaches, but from the backend staff as well. I think we have had a great season on and off the pitch, going into the last game against FC Goa, we know what we need to do, we need to win and that will take us through to the semi-finals,” Tripuraneni said.
“When we were planning our targets for the season, we wanted to be in contention till the very end and that’s where we are. From that point, it has been a satisfying season. While results have been positive, another important aspect is how the younger players have come through the ranks. Manuel Marquez’s contribution has been remarkable, overall a positive season for us,” he added.
Talking about Hyderabad’s final group-stage match against FC Goa, Tripuraneni said: “I think one thing which is good in a way is that we know what we do in the last game. There could have been a situation where we needed a point or a win, so that confusion is not there. We need three points. Couple of ways we were down, but we fought back like in the game against Bengaluru. Same with East Bengal as well. Even though youngsters are there, I know the pressure will be a factor, but the way we have fought back, I am confident we will do the job again.”
Tripuraneni also shed light on how a bio-bubble can take its toll on the players and he explained what all his management did in order to ensure good mental space of Hyderabad players and support staff.
“At the start of the season, we were also trying to get on terms and understand the bio-bubble better. While planning for the season, the IPL was on at the same time in the Middle East. We were trying to get as many inputs as possible from the people who were involved in the IPL. One thing which we put a lot of effort into was communicating with our players and give them enough information on what they can expect when they come to Goa for ISL,” said Tripuraneni.
“There could have been a scenario when the players could have come to Goa and they did not know what to expect. We communicated very well and we set the expectations right. We prepared the players well. Unlike IPL, we knew we had to be in a bubble for five-six months which was completely different. We prepared players well and once they came to Goa, all of them familiarised themselves with the conditions. Our coach Marquez has always said that the strength of the team has always been the unity in the group and the characters in the squad,” he added.
A lot of debate kickstarted in the ongoing season of the ISL regarding referring calls and how the league needs to get Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in place. However, Tripuraneni spoke about how the VAR is not full proof and he even said that referring will get better once the match officials are given more and more exposure.
“I think, in terms of VAR, there are a lot of factors that the league will need to consider because it is not a very straight-forward system and there is a massive financial implication as well. As a fan, when I watch European football, VAR is not something I particularly like as time is lost during a game and it is not full-proof as well. I am not sure we will be implementing VAR in the immediate future,” said Tripuraneni.
“Good and bad decisions are part of the game, unfortunately only the bad decisions get highlighted and are talked about more. When a decision doesn’t go your way, the other team benefits, but no one talks about that. I just feel, the quality of the league has gone up tremendously from 2014 and I am sure with the right effort and training with referees, the quality of referring will also improve,” he added. (ANI)
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ENGLAND SWEEP ODI SERIES AGAINST NETHERLANDS
Top knocks by Jason Roy and Jos Buttler powered England to a eight-wicket win as they also clean swept the three-match ODI series against Netherlands on Wednesday.
An unbeaten ton by Roy and an unbeaten knock of 86 runs by Buttler helped England chase the target of 245 runs in just 30.1 overs and at a loss of only two wickets, here at the VRA Cricket Ground, Amstelveen. With this win, England white-washed the three-match ODI series with a lead of 3-0. Put to bat first, Netherlands had a pathetic start to their innings as they lost the wicket of the opener, Vikramjit Singh, in the fifth over, with only 16 runs on the board. The batter was caught by Dawid Malan on David Willey’s delivery. Tom Cooper joined hands with opener Max ODowd and the duo anchored the innings for some time. Cooper scored 33 runs off 37 balls before being caught by Liam Livingstone on Brydon Carse’s delivery in the 18th over, leaving the team’s total at 88/2. Max ODowd also departed in the 25th over, after claiming his half-century off 69 balls.
Bas de Leede and skipper Scott Edwards came to the crease and changed the momentum of the game. The duo stitched an 84-run partnership and gave Netherlands a strong hand. But it was England, who had the last laugh as Brydon Carse struck against and dismissed de Leede in 40th over after scoring 56 runs off 78 balls.
Teja Nidamanuru came to the crease but could not stand for long as he was stumped by Buttler on Adil Rashid’s delivery. In the very next over by Willey, Logan van Beek also departed without scoring a single run and left Netherlands struggling at 216/6. In the 47th over, Tim Pringle was run out by Malan and departed after scoring only 6 runs. In the next over, Aryan Dutt fell prey to Willey’s spell and went back without opening his account.
INDIA U-17 WOMEN’S TEAM LOSE TO ITALY
India U-17 women’s team suffered a 0-7 defeat against Italy in Grandisco D’lsonzo in the Female Football Tournament on Wednesday. India started off the match just like the way Thomas Dennerby would have wanted, by trying to press the opposition high up the pitch and trying to bring out mistakes from them.
Tackles were flying in from both sides and Italy were awarded a free kick in the 4th minute. Beatrice curled the free-kick but she narrowly missed the target. Italy almost took the lead in the 10th minute as Dragoni was one-vs-one against Indian goalkeeper Monalisa but the latter stretched and produced a wonderful save to deny the Italian. However, India’s resistance would be broken soon as just one minute later, Maria Rossi put the ball into the back of the net.
In the 22nd minute, Monalisa was again called into action by Dragoni, but the former again parried the ball out for a corner. India came the closest to scoring at the half-hour mark when Anita tried a long-range effort to catch the Italian defence off-guard but her shot missed the target by a whisker.
The floodgates would open after that though as Anna Longobardi and Giulla Dragoni scored in the 31st and 33rd minutes, respectively, to give the Italians some much-needed cushion. In the 36th minute, Kajol went for the spectacular but she too missed the target by a whisker. The Young Tigresses trailed the Italians by a 0-3 margin at the half-time break. Italy picked up right from where they left off in the first half as Manuela Sciabica scored in the 48th minute. A couple of quick-fire goals followed after that as well and within 15 minutes of the second half, Italy had extended their lead to six goals. Thomas Dennerby made some changes in the 60th minute as Neha, Rejiya, Babina and Pinku came on for Nitu, Lynda, Kajol and Shelja, respectively. Marta Zambomi scored the final goal of the game in the 67th minute as she stretched Italy’s lead to 7 goals.
Rodrigues, Yadav help India defeat Lanka by 34 runs
Two wicket haul of Radha Yadav was backed by Jemimah Rodrigues’s unbeaten 36 powered visitors to a 34-run win over Sri Lanka in the first T20I here at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla on Thursday. It was a poor day for Sri Lanka’s batting unit as they could not do a lot with the bat on a difficult surface and despite their bowlers dominated the proceedings in the first T20I restricting India to 138/6 in their 20 overs. With this win, India take the series lead with a comprehensive win over Sri Lanka in the three-match T20I series. Vistors were great and did not allow partnerships to prosper for long. For Sri Lanka, Kavisha Dilhari smashed unbeaten 46 runs and was the top scorer for the team. For India, Radha Yadav bagged crucial two wickets while Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma and Deepti Sharma scalped one wicket each.
Chasing 139, Sri Lanka got off to a bad start as they lost their opener Vishmi Gunaratne with one run onboard. This big breakthrough for the Indian team was delivered by Deepti SharmA: Harshitha Madavi then came to bat on the crease and tried to anchor the innings with skipper Chamari Athapaththu.
The Sri Lanka skipper batted aggressively and in the fifth over she smashed back-to-back two fours against Radha Yadav’s delivery. In the seventh, over of the innings, Athapaththu fell prey to Radha Yadav’s brilliant delivery as she tried to go for a four but was caught by Rajeshwari Gayakwad after scoring 16 runs in 19 balls.
Kavisha Dilhari then came to bat. In the same seventh over Yadav strike again and dismissed Madavi, who scored just 10 runs in 17 deliveries. Right-handed batter Nilakshi de Silva then came to bat and joined hands with Dilhari to keep the team’s momentum going. Dilhari and de Silva played cautiously to make sure they don’t lose any more wickets. After the 10 overs, the Sri Lanka team’s score reads 41/3. After the 11 overs hosts needed 93 runs in 54 balls. In the 13th over of the innings, Pooja Vastrakar gave her team a big breakthrough as she dismissed de Silva with Sri Lanks’s score of 54/4 on board.
After the wickets of de Silva, Ama Kanchana then came to the crease. The 14th over of the innings saw Shafali Verma deliver a brilliant spell only conceding 3 runs. At this point of the match, Sri Lanka batters struggled to even take a single run as Indian bowlers were too cheap in the matter conceding runs.
Ama Kanchana later fell prey to Verma’s delivery after scoring 11 runs in 10 balls. Anushka Sanjeewani then came to bat but at that point, it was impossible for the hosts to pull off the remaining 51 runs in 10 balls.
In the last over hosts tried to fight back and smashed two fours, but it was no use. Renuka Singh did not allow Lanka batters to gather many runs in the 20th and restricted them to 104/5 after 20 overs of play. Earlier, Put to bat first, India got off to a poor start, losing opener Smriti Mandhana (1) and Sabbhineni Meghana (0) in two consecutive balls of pacer Oshadi Ranasinghe’s fourth over. SL captain Chamari Athapaththu took two great catches in both the dismissals.
Following both the dismissals, it was in hands of opener Shafali Verma and captain Harmanpreet Kaur to rebuild things for IndiA: At the end of six overs, India stood at 32/2 with Harmanpreet Kaur (10*) and Shafali Verma (18*)
Shafali looked in great touch, smashing four boundaries. She was dismissed by the captain Athapaththu for 31 off 31 balls, after being caught by Nilakshi de Silva at long-on.
At the end of 10 overs, India was at 58/3, with Harmanpreet Kaur (22*) and Jemimah Rodrigues (1*). Soon, captain Kaur was dismissed leg before wicket for 22 by spinner Inoka Ranaweera, sinking India to 58/4. Afterwards, Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh, the wicketkeeper-batter had to rebuild. But the 23-run stand came to an abrupt end after Ranaweera dismissed him with assistance from the safe hands of Anushka Sanjeewani for 11. With this, half of the Indian team was back in the hut for 81.
At the end of 15 overs, the Indian team stood at 85/5, with Pooja Vastrakar (3*) and Jemimah Rodrigues (12*). The duo had a short 25-run partnership, which ended with the dismissal of Vastrakar for 14 after she was bowled by RanaweerA: Jemimah Rodrigues was standing tall all this while, keeping one end steady. India ended their innings at 138/6, with Rodrigues (36*) and Deepti Sharma (17*) Inoka Ranaweera was the pick of the bowlers for Sri Lanka, taking 3/30. Oshadi Ranasinghe also took two wickets while Athapaththu got one.
BRIEF SCORES: India 138/6 in 20 overs (Jemimah Rodrigues 36*, Shafali Verma 31, Inoka Ranaweera 3/30) vs Sri Lanka (Kavisha Dilhari 46*, Chamari Athapaththu 16; Radha Yadav 2-22).
SELF-DOUBT AND CRITICISM COME NATURALLY, BUT WE CAN LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM, SAYS NAMITA BAL
NEW DELHI: A spine injury curtailed her tennis career as a player in 2015. But Namita Bal is a name who found a way to channelise her energy and stoke her dreams of guiding young players to be champions of the country. The 26 year old daughter of Nandan Bal easily one of the best coaches in the country. Namita has been coaching junior players and has recently been travelling for events in the men’s circuit as well. Excerpts:
Q: Namita, you started coaching in 2015. You have been working at the Nandan Bal Tennis Academy in Pune from 2015 with beginners, intermediate and advanced players. So, what do you feel is the role of a coach in a player’s success?
A: I feel a role changes as a player develops. There we play different roles in different stages of a player’s career. So, for me it’s always been about modelling my coaching style and adapting to what the player needs at that moment and what they are going through even off court. I think there is a lot to do sport as well as on board.
Q: In 2019, you were the captain of the Indian Junior Fed Cup which is now known as the Billie Jean King Cup. How was the experience and whom do you consider the strongest contender amongst the women playing for the Indian team?
A: With the junior team it was with any team event it’s always more exciting. The coach plays a far more active role. Then we do individual tournaments but right there on court and we are allowed to speak to the players between changeovers. So, it’s very interesting because we are always strategizing, we are always, there is always a change of game plans because the other coach is also trying to, you know, outsmart our players. So, it’s a lot of exciting team events. It’s always a different experience to be part of a team. For most of the players it’s the only chance they get in the juniors. That’s one for Under 14 and one for Under 16. So there are only these two tournaments that we have in the juniors to be part of a team and playing for the country is a huge honour in itself. So the experience is great for everybody involved, the players as well as the captains. As far as the juniors are concerned I think Shruti Allah is one of our strongest contenders who could go on to do very well. She has got the brain, she’s got the physique and she has got the versatility in her game to make it to the top.
Q: In India, being a tennis coach is a vocation that is generally reserved for men. So have you ever felt out of place or have people ever made you feel that way? How has it affected you?
A: People have definitely tried to make me feel that way, whether intentionally or not. But I don’t think it’s affected me that much. I know the issue is only visibility. There are more male coaches because people haven’t seen too many female coaches. It’s difficult for them to see a female coach play that role. But there are many more female coaches now than when I started. So it’s definitely getting better. I have not really let it affect me because I have known in my bones that this is what I am meant to do. So, whatever people have said has not fazed me. It’s not let me feel like I don’t belong here because I know that I would.
Q: You are obviously different from most of the counterparts. And that can be intimidating. Have you ever struggled with pressure or self doubt as a result of this?
A: 400 percent. I wouldn’t say as a result of that but self doubt is something I think everyone faces everyday in some form or the other. There is a lot of conditioning involved. We live in a society where we criticise far more often than we are placed. So, self doubt comes naturally to all of us. Criticism comes naturally to all of us. I think whenever we are going to get rid of our doubts, we are never going to get rid of our fears. But we can learn how to deal with them. We can learn how to convince ourselves that we are good enough and I think that’s what I do.
Q: You have also made forays into the men’s circuit. What has been the experience so far?
A: Initially it was pretty funny because like I said nobody saw too many female coaches especially those travelling with male players. So they work for you know their sister or them just a friend travelling with them. They never imagine that I was a coach. But it’s been great because I learnt how to stand my ground despite that. I was doing what I was meant to do. So it wasn’t an issue then. Initially it was a little weird because I was looked at strangely.
Q: And here emerges in Amita Bal out of her great struggles and of course the experience what is the significance of women role models like you in sports today?
A: For me I think the biggest significance would be like I said initially the visibility. I think it empowers younger girls to take up the sport not just tennis but any sport. It shows them that there is a future beyond what we’ve been conventionally taught that women should or shouldn’t do. Even if you discontinue playing the sport. There are many more avenues. There’s college tennis and you know the world, the world is a roster.
So, visibility is very important. I know that there was a handful of coaches when I started. And even fewer 10 years before that and I know I have a couple of role models in India Thakur from Delhi.
She is one of my role models, one of our first female coaches and I am up to her and I really loved how she taught how she changed herself depending on who she was coaching. And nothing that I don’t think I have even spoken to her about but it really did have a huge impact on me. So just I feel that if she could have that impact on one person I am hoping that the coaches that we have now can have that impact on many other women too or younger girls to pick up a sport and do what they want with their life.
Q: A major issue that women across the world struggle with is obviously body shaming. Have you ever had issues with your body image? And if yes, then how has it affected your life?
A: 100% have had issues and to honest, I still continue to I wouldn’t say struggle but that self doubt is there quite often because I have grown up being a tennis player, I have grown up identifying myself as being fit. So when I stopped playing and started coaching, I was terrified of saying that. I was terrified of losing my fitness, of losing the way I look, of losing my identity. I know a lot of my players where they are termed as too heavy to be playing or not strong enough to be playing. There are so many judgments that are passed but each body is different. It is different and we just got to use what we have. Play to our strengths. And know that we are strong enough. I think the biggest change for me was going from focusing on how I look to focusing on how I feel. And that’s made a huge difference. I am now focusing on how I feel eating a lot better, I am healthier, I am stronger and I still feel fit. I haven’t lost that.
Q: What sort of changes do you think need to be made in order to improve the role of women in sports?
A: I feel there should be a lot more done at the grassroots level, even schools like young, young children should be brought into sport as early as possible. Schools could do that. We see a lot of young boys playing cricket and football on the streets. There are not too many young girls that we see even though there are so many admirable female footballers and cricketers. You don’t see too many of them, too many kids on the street playing. So, getting schools to include that as part of their curriculum and like I said visibility would help with that. You know, just and it is better. It is better today than it was 10 years ago and I am sure 5 years will be even better.
Q: So, like moving on to some personal area of your life. Namita likes to do what if not tennis.
A: If not tennis definitely be outdoors and preferably outdoors with animals.
Q: Are you a movie freak? Do you like watching movies?
A: I do like watching movies but that’s only if I’m too tired to be outdoors. I’d rather be you know swimming or hiking or just like I said outdoors anywhere in nature with my dog.
Q: So who was your inspiration, Namita?
A: Definitely my father. Every player that I have taught has inspired me has taught me something on a daily basis and it could just be the way they handle a situation. It could just be the way they know and they talk to me about certain fears that they have. So whenever I see somebody overcome something, even if it’s for just one minute, it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to do that because it inspires me to do better. It gives me those thoughts that I can be better and I can do better and also in some way gives me that happiness that I am able to do this, that I have been given the opportunity to do this. That inspires me.
Q: What are the upcoming tournaments that you are gearing up for?
A: So we’ve got the World Junior Tennis Finals coming up that India qualified for after I think eight years. We played in Delhi a couple of months ago. And we’ve qualified along with Korea, Japan and AustraliA: So that’s going to be in Czech Republic in the first week of August.
‘MY FOCUS IS ON PLAYING, WILL DO COACHING WHEN THE TIME COMES’
Savita Punia is known as the great wall of the Indian Hockey team. She earned this title after her phenomenal performance in the Summer Olympics 2020. Savita Punia had an exclusive conversation with The Daily Guardian Review. Excerpts:
Q. From battling eve-teasers in the bus to guarding India’s goal-post at the Tokyo Olympics to climbing up to the best 6th position in FIH World Rankings. How does it feel and what sweat and blood does it take?
A. It took so long, it has been a long journey with a lot of hard work, with a lot of people’s support; including my family, coaches, and teammates. A lot of hard work of my own. It took a bit to understand how much it matters to me, but now that I have understood hockey is the thing that matters the most. I am ready to do more hard work, I just have to make my parents proud. At that time I understood how important a goalkeeper’s role is. Of course, it is a proud moment, but when you have a grid that much, it feels better, “I have worked this much and it has paid off”. For me the respect that my parents have for me matters the most, a child wants nothing more than that; that is a reason for your parent’s happiness, and for me, that is the biggest achievement.
Q. What does individual recognition mean to you?
A. For me, the biggest recognition is what my team gives me, that they should call me proudly that I am their goalkeeper, if she plays then we have different confidence. I never liked or needed the limelight, but inside the helmet, I felt the most confident because I was camera-shy. But when you perform well it gives you more confidence and motivation. It has been a long journey full of ups and downs, injuries, and sacrifices but I love playing hockey. The more experience a goalkeeper has, the more they enjoy it confidently. Maybe my coach decided to proceed to be best, at that time I didn’t like the decision much though but it has given me a different identity. The goalkeeper has a really big role to play, I learned that from my senior goalkeepers. I never thought that I would be given this much fame and limelight. The more training and experience a goalkeeper has the more fun it is, “ Utna hi maza aata hai”.
Q. What preparations are being done for World Cup?
A. I think we are training in the right direction, both individually and as a team, our coach is the biggest reason behind it. Each training session is very hard and in the right way, it makes us fulfil, and that builds confidence, makes us ready for the tournament more. We’ll give our best and go match by match.
Q. You shy away from the spotlight. But when Rani Rampal was in rehabilitation, did this add more responsibility as a senior player?
A. I think yes, I think this responsibility was there from the very start. Rani and I have been very close and supported each other. Her comeback is a very good thing, we know a senior player’s presence is very important, and they give a lot of energy to the young player. When you are a senior player, you have more responsibilities. If I do my work nicely as an individual player directly that automatically helps a team.
Q. You are now 31. Not many women hockey players in the country play over the age of 30. What motivates you to continue?
A. First of all my family, because of them, I’m here. Maybe I could be an example for the people in the future, because where hockey is now today, and for what I have worked so hard and I’m still fit so there is a no reason to quit. I question myself often, and the answer is always that if I can perform more, then I should play. My team and coaching staff are supportive. Even after marriage why cannot I play? Why this wrong mindset? I would play after the marriage too, if my family can be supportive so can my in-laws too, I’m sure I would be able to make them proud too. Nobody wants to quit, but when you have earned respect by playing and you know you can play more than you should not stop, age does not matter.
Q. You were offered a coaching role with the Sports Authority of India. Is coaching your next calling?
A. My main focus is on playing, will do coaching when the time comes. The things that I know of, I would be very happy to pass that to the new players.
Q. India lost the bronze medal match at FIH Junior Women’s World Cup. Was it sheer bad luck or did you see some loopholes.
A. I think it was bad luck, the team was on the right track and training in the right direction. We were more confident than the team itself because they were playing hockey very well. I think you can always learn from defeat; it gave us the lessons for the next matches. Every player was so fine in their role, so it was bad luck. I believe it takes time to recover but our defeat teaches you a lot, which helps you in the future.
Q. India will be facing off against Belgium in a double-header in away games on 11 June 2022 and 12 June. At the same time, the FIH Women’s Hockey Pro League and FIH Women’s World Cup are coming up. So are we ready to give a strong game to the opponents and how?
A. Yes, we are ready. As a senior team player, I can tell we are on the right track and we are working so hard, everyone is very ready and excited to play in the tournament.
Q. What is your hockey philosophy and how did you develop it? Is there an ideal form for how you want your team to play hockey? Or do you rather look to adapt to the players you have?
A. I think we had seen both bad and good times, with so many ups and downs. A player’s life is very unpredictable, sometimes too flourishes not so, injuries are a part too. Jenneke’s standard is too high, she expects the same from us, so it makes us push ourselves even more. She never gives up and we have learned it from her.
When your mind tells you that you have to push more so automatically your body does the double work, that is what we have learned from her. We will not give up in upcoming matches and give our best till the last moment.
For us, performance matters more than the result itself. As a team, if we perform well then, the result will also be well.
IT WAS OUR GAME AND OUR MOMENT TO PROVE OURSELVES, SAY CHIRAG SHETTY AND SATWIKSAIRAJ RANKIREDDY ON THOMAS CUP WIN
Team India rewrote history by winning the Thomas Cup. This 72-year history has witnessed several great badminton pairs right from Prakash Padukone and Uday Pawar. Today we have with us the golden pair of our Thomas Cup victory, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. Excerpts:
Q. Firstly, congratulations to you both on this historic moment. How does it feel?
A. Chirag: feels good, the whole team’s environment was phenomenal and all of us are really happy, the way we played and. I think “we witnessed something historic”.
Satwik: We are still in that zone, we are champions of Thomas cup, I can’t imagine that we won that trophy. To me it is tremendous; the 10 days of journey, when I look back it’s like we had great beautiful memories, one of the best days in my life.
Q. You guys went down in the first set and then came back with guns blazing. What was being said after that 1st set?
A. Chirag: Well, at the half-time break, we spoke with our coach, who advised us to stick to the plan and keep things as simple as possible. At the half-time break, we were up 2-0. We were up 11-6 at the time. However, when we advanced to the second game, we squandered that lead and were down 20-17; our coach then advised us to keep things simple and safe. That is exactly what we did. I believe we were awarded a lucky point at 20-18, after which the match switched in our favour, and the rest is history.
Q. What was the mindset going into the final for the two of you? What were you working on knowing that Ahsan and Kevin are not easy nuts to crack?
A3. Satwik: Well, before the finals, we chatted to everyone who went and had a good time without thinking too much. We thought the Indonesian players would be in a much worse condition if we came in and played like champs.
“It’s our game now, it’s our moment to prove ourselves,” Laxman, the first man, and I thought. Our confidence was also reinforced by the large crowd. I believe the team’s upbeat attitude had an impact on us.
Q. What has the role of Matthias Boe been and what did he tell you guys? How did he inspire you and keep you motivated?
A. Satwik: Well, before the finals, we talked to everyone who came and had a fantastic time without overthinking things. We reasoned that if we came in and played like champions, the Indonesian guys would be in much worse shape.
“It’s our game now, our chance to shine,” Laxman, the first man, and I both thought. The enormous audience just added to our self-assurance. I feel the team’s positive attitude influenced us.
Q. You both look super comfortable playing with each other. This is what has made you one of the best men’s badminton pairs in the world today? What do you think makes things work between you two?
A. Chirag: One thing that worked really well for us is that we’re both really good friends, which helped us a lot on the court. Our relationship is very strong off the court, which shows on the court.
Satwik: I believe we are both more caring towards each other. We’re like “married couples” that always look out for one other and are there for one another when needed ( on court and off court). Both of us think in the same direction, both of us wanted to play in the same game, both of us wanted to follow the same plan, and our relationship is unbreakable. It is hoped that this trend will continue for a long period.
Q. Is our golden Jodi also the prankster partner in crime Jodi in the dressing room?
A. Chirag: We’re not pranksters, but we used to sit together, have meals together, and after dinner, we’d make our honours dance (i.e., Priyanshu, who’s playing Thomas Cup for the first time), and then we’d all start dancing with him because we were all so energetic.
Q. You guys expressed your feelings after the Olympics setback, but have now come back strong with this triumph. How has the journey been and what next for the two of you?
A. Chirag: Well, the voyage has been fantastic, despite the fact that it was fairly challenging following the Olympics. We had high hopes for the Olympics, but the outcome was disappointing. “I don’t think it could have been any better than coming back and winning the Thomas Cup.” It’s only the beginning of a long line of fantastic things to come from us and Indian Badminton.
Q. The Prime Minister and the sports ministry have announced honours for the entire team. What is your message to them?
A. Chirag: I think the job done by the ministry, the government, and the federation has been amazing. The amount of money the government spends on us is mind-boggling. They’ve been quite helpful with the top plan and everything, and they may have begun paying us as early as 5-7 years ago. And now they can see the final product, which is a major victory that would not have been achieved without their help. As a result, I owe a debt of gratitude to the government and the federal government.
Satwik: The Prime Minister and the government were quite supportive. We had no shortages, and everything was delivered on time. We’re only here to perform; all you have to do now is go play. There’s no reason to consider it.
Q. Chirag, did you get the charter plan request approved? (laughs)
A. (Laughs) No, not yet. It was said in good humour but it could have been taken seriously but they didn’t (laughs).
Q.Pullela Gopichand has penned a heartfelt article on the Thomas Cup win. Do you see this as a fitting tribute to our greats such as Padukone and Gopichand?
A. Chirag: I believe Prakash Sir, Gopi Sir, and everyone else wrote a lot of positive things about us, and I’ve read the majority of the articles. “You guys are still young and don’t know what you guys have achieved,” Vimal sir used to say at team meetings.
Satwik: Definitely, Gopi isn’t going to sing your praises. He never says “you did a terrific job” when he says “go back on the training.”
Q.Now that you have scripted history as a doubles pair, what would you tell the kids and pursuing doubles? There is a perception that glorifies singles.
A. Satwik: Well, singles tend to attract a lot of attention. When I first started playing, there were a lot of singles, but as time went on, they changed to doubles, which isn’t the same as playing doubles professionally. When I was younger, I used to see all of the seniors start with singles and then move on to doubles. My batchmates and I, on the other hand, began playing doubles when we were under the age of 15. Nowadays, I believe doubles is doing rather well.
Q. Chirag’s picture celebrating with your shirt off has set the social media on fire. Was it inspired by Ganguly or Ronaldo?
A. It wasn’t prompted by anyone; it just happened in the moment; I couldn’t control my emotions, and the victory meant a lot to us and the team.
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