The popularity of cricket in India is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because cricket is a sport Indians excel in, despite the fact that the country has no perceivable sport culture.
So the popularity of the game in a country of over a billion has ensured that cricket is akin to a thriving industry who got his big break by becoming the first grand champion in the comedy category on “star search”?
. A talented young cricketer can hope to make a lucrative living from the game.
The popularity of the game also works as a curse in India, with other sports given step motherly treatment, partly due to the excessive attention cricket demands and gets from all concerned.
If any sportsperson excels in a sport other than cricket he or she does so in spite of the system, not because of any support derived from it.
When you consider this, you will begin to understand the true greatness of a champion sportsperson such as the world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand, or the Olympic gold medalist in shooting, Abhinav Bindra. These champions have shone on the strength of their own effort.
The latest of this breed of champion sportspersons is Saina Nehwal, a twenty year old Indian badminton player, who, on July 15, 2010, ascended to the world number two ranking as announced by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
When Saina Nehwal beat Julia Xian Pei Wong of Malaysia in the final of the Philippine Open in 2006, she became the youngest ever, and the first Indian woman, to win a four-star tournament.
This was the defining moment of a career that was launched when Saina’s father enrolled her in a summer training camp at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, Hyderabad, in 1998. Born in March 1990, to parents who were themselves former badminton champions, from the Indian state of Haryana, Saina went from strength to strength, until five years later, she won the Czech Junior Open, announcing her arrival on the international badminton stage.
What followed thereafter was a series of achievements that served to confirm her championship potential. The winner’s crown at the Asian Satellite Badminton Tournament the same year, followed by the national senior women’s title, and a gold medal at the National Games in 2007, the 2008 Chinese Taipei Open Grand Prix Gold, and the national championship for a second year running, all served to establish her firmly among the senior players’ circuit, even as a teenager.
She continued to sparkle at the junior level, winning Gold at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games followed by the winner’s crown at the BWF World Junior Championships, the same year, a year in which Saina entered the world’s top ten list, for the first time.
The year 2009 was to prove even more fruitful, as she went on to win the Indonesia Super Series and the Indian Open Grand Prix.
Then came the hat-trick of titles in 2010 that was to take Saina first to the world number three spot, and then to number two: the India Open Grand Prix Gold was followed by the, Singapore Open Super Series, and the Indonesia Open Super Series.
A native of Hyderabad, India, Saina’s early training involved investment of time and money that was a drain on her parent’s limited resources, until in 2002, she attracted her first sponsor in Yonex, followed by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, a Fortune 500 company, after her victory in the Czech Open.