Sportsmen and women in India have usually been shy and introvert when it comes to giving interviews. Even his Holiness Sachin has had to watch what he says and sometimes retract statements, but all that is in the past. Say hello to a new breed of young sportsmen who speak their minds and make a lot of sense when they talk.
I recently had the privilege of talking to Anand Pawar, one of India’s up and coming Badminton stars who has already caused many an upset on the international scene. His answers were both forthright and witty, with a no non-sense attitude that seems to define youth these days.
Here are excerpts from that interview.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda : Badminton is one sport that has shown amazing results for India in the recent past. Why do you think that is ?
Anand : There has been a lot of exposure been given to the best batch of players which has been an advantage for us since we get to compete with the best in the world on a regular basis which has made us raise the level of our game accordingly. This, along with the presence of some foreign coaches has changed a few things for the better in the system.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :How did it feel winning your first international event?
Anand :It was fantastic. I had been to a couple of finals in the domestic senior circuit but could never go all the way so it was a great feeling after winning the final in the Austrian International 2008. It was even better when I won the Portugal International 2 weeks later! :-)
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Is it hard to find sponsors or has it become easy in light of the recent events?
Anand :Things have improved a bit for the game now since Saina and our mixed doubles pair of Jwala / Diju are doing so well and are in the top 10 in the world. There are also, for the first time, 5 mens singles players in the top 50 in the world which seems to be giving Badminton the recognition it deserves in India. Obviously, it could be better to get in some more money into the game. I still feel the prize money in international events is too less compared to other sports.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Why do you think that we do not produce as many quality athletes as say China or Korea? (Not specific to badminton)
Anand : China and Korea have a totally different system so it is difficult to compare us with them. Kids there are being trained from a very young age while in India a lot of attention is given to the child’s education and sport is always considered secondary. Also, they are much stronger genetically which is an advantage for them later on. Their planned system is also a big plus point for them as their Government is so strict that the athletes have no choice but to follow their bosses. It does not work like that in India.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :What do you think we should do that change that ?
Anand :There has to be some kind of professionalism in Indian sport. As of now everything is in a mess and there is so much politics in every association that it is the players and athletes who suffer. We need a better set up, i.e., better facilities, better gyms, and good physiotherapy and of course the right people to run everything.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Indians have qualified to play all 5 Olympics badminton events since its induction in 1992, but a medal has eluded us thus far. When will this change?
Anand : Hopefully very soon! :-) Sania got so close at Beijing so it’s shown us that it is not impossible to win a medal at the Olympics. People have been taking more interest after Beijing 2008 after we won a couple of medals and I’m sure that number will increase by London 2012. Probably get one from Badminton as well :)
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Are you excited about the commonwealth games being held in Delhi in 2010?
Anand : Yes of course! It would be good to play at home in such a big event! Hopefully I’ll qualify for it and get selected.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Are you hopeful of a medal for India in badminton?
Anand :I’m very sure that we are going to win a few medals in Badminton. We have the right team and the right players.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :Do you think there are enough badminton academies to nurture talent in our country?
Anand : No I don’t think so. Most of the big academies are in the big cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. A lot of players from places far from these cities suffer as they do not get the right training and playing opportunities in their own hometown. They cannot be at these academies as it is too expensive for them to move to the cities. Some academies have to come up in the smaller places as well.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :What other sports apart from badminton do you follow?
Anand :I like watching Cricket and Tennis.
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :What are your plans for the future? What do you see yourself doing after sport?
Anand :I haven’t really thought about it yet. I’d like to be involved with the game in some way but not in the association. :)
Abhinav@SportsKeeda :What are your words of wisdom for young aspiring badminton players?
Anand :It’s important to follow your heart and dream big and work as hard as possible to achieve those dreams and goals. So, even if you don’t get there at least you have the satisfaction that you’ve tried hard and given it your best shot.
On behalf of all our Keedas I’d like to wish Anand the best of luck to qualify for the CFG and go on to win a medal.