BWF World Tour Finals victory showcased both game and gamesmanship of PV Sindhu
P V Sindhu’s first title win of 2018 has come at the fag end of a frustrating season where she played well enough to reach six finals, only to lose all of them. But this victory against world number five Nozomi Okuhara showcased not only Sindhu’s brilliant game, but also the required gamesmanship that is often required to win at the elite level. If anything, this can be a template that she can surely emulate in future, for more such success.
Sindhu may be, by nature, an aggressive player, but that aggression has generally been restricted to only her game. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she is not seen to be very vocal on court. She usually keeps her emotions to herself. That need not necessarily be a bad quality, but sometimes it pays to indulge in a little bit of gamesmanship, without violating any rules of the game.
There was an interesting anecdote narrated by Sindhu’s long-time coach Pullela Gopichand after Sindhu won India’s first ever badminton silver at Rio Olympic Games. He narrated how it took him a long time to instil in Sindhu a sense of aggression in body language, and not just the game.
She used to never shout on court, and Gopichand told her how she needed to do that too. Because, at a time and age when almost all her opponents at the elite level used to be noisy on the court, unless one does the same, the atmosphere can be unnerving for you. However, being quite docile on court, it was difficult for Sindhu to do that.
It is only when she realized that being vocal does not necessarily mean that one was disrespectful to one’s opponent, did she start becoming a little vocal on court, and it did help her game too. However, she has never become too noisy or vocal, like players such as Carolina Marin.
The other aspect of her game that is usually conspicuous by its absence is her lack of gamesmanship. There have been occasions when her opponents have done so to frustrate her. During the world championships final at Nanjing earlier this year, Carolina Marin had refused to change the shuttlecock, when Sindhu had asked for it.
It was Sindhu’s turn to do to Okuhara today what Marin had done to her then. At 9-11 in the second game today, Okuhara asked for a replacement of shuttlecock and Sindhu refused. This may be a small incident, but it shows how a little bit of gamesmanship does not hurt.
It was clear that Okuhara had asked for the change of shuttlecock to break Sindhu’s momentum. Because after the point was played, when Sindhu offered to change the cock, she refused. If she had asked for the change because of the condition of the shuttlecock, there was no reason for her not to change it a game after she had asked for it, because its condition surely would not have improved after a game!
It will not be an exaggeration to say that one of the biggest victories for Sindhu owed in no small measure to her superior tactical game, which included a bit of gamesmanship.