Syed Modi was a brilliant badminton player, whose career and life was cut short in a tragic manner. A 8 time national champion and a compatriot of Prakash Padukone, Modi was touted to be as big a superstar as Padukone.
Syed Modi was born in Sardarnagar near Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh in 1962. Syed Modi became junior national champion in 1976 and trained under P.K. Bhandari till 1982. Thereafter he trained under the guidance of Dipu Ghosh, National Coach of Indian team. He was born Syed Mehdi but while playing a junior tournament in Mumbai his surname was wrongly written as Modi, which thereafter stuck to him.
Syed Modi was national champion for 8 straight years from 1980-1987. Along with that he won the Austrian International in 1983 and ’84; won singles bronze in ’82 Asian Games and received the Arjuna Award in 1981. At 1982 Commonwealth Games, he beat England’s Nick Yates, 7-15, 15-5, 15-7 to win the Men’s singles title. His play displayed a mix of stylist Suresh Goel, of whom he was a protégé.
He was quickly rising in the ranks in the international circuit. But his ascend was halted in the most brutal way possible. On the morning of 28 July 1988 in Lucknow as he came out of the K. D. Singh Babu Stadium after a practice session, he was murdered by some unknown people. His wife Amita Modi and her future husband Sanjay Singh were made accused in the case, but were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Syed Modi was only 26 years old and was on his way to become an international superstar.
His murder case became a much talked about news title in all of India and world. Despite the case going on and on and arguments from both the defence side and the accused side, finally Bhagwati Singh was found guilty of murder and possessing illegal arms, fined and sentenced to life imprisonment.n
But there is still the questions about who really murdered Syed Modi or on whose orders was he murdered. All sorts of theories were put forth by the deceased`s relatives and lawyers, but truth, it seems has been very cleverly hid forever.
In 2009, Twenty-one years after national badminton champion Syed Modi was gunned down in cold blood, a Lucknow sessions court on Saturday sentenced the lone surviving accused Bhagwati Singh to life without establishing any motive for the murder. It also refused to go into alleged links of the murderer with politician Sanjay Singh and Modi’s ex-wife Amita Singh, saying no conspiracy was established by the CBI.
Trial judge Shashank Shekhar also fined Bhagwati Singh Rs 50,000 for the crime, which was accompanied by a heady dose of politics and passion that rocked the country in 1988. He noted that even after 21 years, the CBI couldn’t find a motive for the murder and pinpoint the conspirators behind the crime. The court pronounced its sentence on the basis of eyewitness accounts without going into the motive part of the crime.
Whether Syed Modi`s actual killer is found or not, on that morning in 1988, Indian and world badminton really lost a tremendously talented and wonderfully skilled player who was on the cusp of becoming something really big.
Indian badminton may have lost a star and potential world champion in Syed Modi, but his memories and contribution to badminton have been recognized by naming the National Championship “The Syed Modi Grand Prix” held in Lucknow by the Badminton Association of India.Syed Modi badminton academy in Thane, Maharashtra operates to find young and dynamic shuttlers in Maharashtra and India .
In the end, despite playing for a short period of time, Syed Modi has left a long-lasting legacy and would be remembered as one of the greats of the game India ever produced.