Not easy to stay away from tennis: Bopanna

Asian Games gold medallist and Arjuna awardee Rohan Bopanna on his life in lockdown, Olympic preparations and future of tennis post-Covid.

Rohan Bopanna
Rohan Bopanna

Q. How have been the past two months of lockdown for you?

A. I have enjoyed most of my lockdown period and I am back here with my family in Coorg. It has been 25 years ever since I spent so much of time here with my family, so I cannot complain. My wife and I have been blessed with a daughter last year, so this has given me a quality time to be with my daughter and it has been really special. I don’t think it was possible to get two months of time to spend with her. So, I am really enjoying my time in this lockdown.

Q. How tough has it been for you, as an athlete who is used to so much of travelling, training, playing matches abroad, to be confined at home?

A. I think after 2 weeks, it got a little tougher. For the first two weeks I used to think that I have a nice time off as I am at home. We were used to travelling for the past 20 years and were constantly on the roads with a suitcase and suddenly everything stopped. What really helped me was my endeavour to maintain a routine during the lockdown. Whether I was working out or I was practising against the wall, I just told myself: “Let’s fix a time and just look forward to every day.” This actually helped because sometimes when the mind is idle, we get all kinds of thoughts going in the head and that’s how it worked out for me.

Q. As the Sports Ministry has come up with guidelines on resumption of training allowing athletes to go back to court. How big this relief is for any athlete?

A. I was really happy to hear this because Karnataka opened the tennis court amidst the lockdown a week ago and now going back to court and hitting the ball feels extremely great. Unfortunately, because of the rain I could not practice for the last two days but it’s nice to see things open. The sport has given me so much over the years and I was missing it. I am really happy to be back on the court. Also, at the academy in Yelahanka, there are about 6-8 kids who come for coaching and I could just the smiles on their faces. I think they were just looking forward to hitting hard on court. It’s not really easy for these kids to stay at home, away from tennis for a long time.

Q. Do you think big tennis tournaments/Grand Slams can be played without audiences in near future?

A. I think tennis is very different as compared to other sports because it just can’t be played in one country because lots of countries now have different quarantine norms. So, for everyone coming from different countries, this will make it much harder. It is much harder to think playing without fans even if you have to play Grand Slam tomorrow. A lot of things which involves volunteers, transportation have to be arranged and also, many people have to work on the venue as well. There are lots of logistics which goes on in organising a Grand Slam and when you have 100-120 countries participating in the tournaments, I think there is so much to look, apart from just playing without fans.

Q. Do you think the momentum of a tennis player can break due to of lack of training and practice in the last two months?

A. Not at all because of the constant number of drills a tennis player does over the years. Yes, you can become little rusty, but you can’t forget how to hit a forehand or a backhand. It will just take about maximum a week or two, to get back in the rhythm. Yes, sometimes the accuracy where you want to hit it may take a little longer time but otherwise it is pretty easy to get back to sport and to gain a momentum.

Q. You also run an academy in which lots of young kids comes for training, what sorts of measures are you taking to avoid the spread o…
[3:13 AM, 6/3/2020] Itv Pankaj Bhutani Sir: 54TH BIRTHDAY

Wasim Akram: a rare genius

Irrespective of his nationality, Wasim Akram has traits— both professional and personal—that command respect and deserve admiration. A tribute on his 54th birthday.

Arjun Hemmady

We in India say that Pakistan has a factory which produces top quality fast bowlers. One of the best was undoubtedly the great Wasim Akram. What is remarkable about Wasim’s career is that he continuously evolved and sharpened his skills. The Wasim who retired in 2003 was nothing like the lanky bowler who debuted in 1984. He added various tricks in his armoury which made life hell for the batsmen facing him. His trait of hiding the ball in his right hand during his run up is something that many fast bowlers are copying to this day!

During his playing days Wasim was a great competitor. He got a total of 917 international wickets, which is mind boggling considering that he was diagnosed with diabetes at the peak of his career. The way he accepted the disease and worked around it to make himself one of the fittest players shows his maturity as an individual. After all, not many fast bowlers can boast of successfully and consistently playing for a career spanning 18 years.

It is said that his arch-rival on the field Sourav Ganguly had requested Wasim to become India’s bowling coach in the mid-2000s. Wasim is said to have refused the offer. This again shows his maturity and awareness of the political climate. Wasim could have gotten the biggest of pay cheques to guide the Indian fast bowlers who at that point in time needed a good mentor. He realised that it wouldn’t be appropriate to accept the job given the relations between the two countries. However, he made up for it in part by guiding Indian bowlers whenever he got the chance in an unofficial capacity taking time out from his commentary duties.

When the Kolkata Knight Riders looked for a Bowling Coach in 2010, they got Wasim on board and talented Indian pacers like Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami got to learn the tricks of the trade from the master himself. Wasim has always stated that he is open to training young fast bowlers whether they be from India, his own country of Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. It is sad that he is not being utilised well by the PCB. In Wasim, Pakistan has probably the best guide for their fast bowlers that they can ever find. It’s a pity that they don’t recognise that. Very few stalwarts of the game show an inclination to share their knowledge with others. Wasim is a rare genius who has both the eagerness and ability to guide youngsters, a quality which very few possess.

Wasim has millions of fans around the world, even in India and for good reason. Irrespective of his nationality, he has traits — both professional and personal — that command respect and deserve admiration. I can happily say that I am one of his countless admirers. Happy 54th Wasim! Wish you well!