Anura Prabhudesai, already India’s number one ranked shuttler in a pool that includes Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, is itching to compete on the global stage and win in the company of her more famous country mates. In an interview with ASHLEY ROSARIO, the teenager reveals she was hooked to the racket and shuttle since age six, reminisces on some of her 52 medal-winning performances and gives an insight into her gruelling six-hour-a-day training routines
ANURA Prabhudesai is a vivacious 19-year-old poised to dominate the Indian women’s badminton scene.
AR: Congrats on your India No. 1 ranking. Very few in Goa know of your prowess in badminton on the national scene. Could you briefly spell out your journey to the top ranking?
AP: Thank you.
At six, I began training with my elder sister who eventually went on to focus on higher studies. My coach convinced me that I have the potential to do well in this sport especially because I had joined at the right age. Hence I continued.
I won a prize as ‘upcoming player’ as a seven-year-old. It was my first experience of accepting an award. This was during a state tournament in Ponda in 2005. This inspired me to play and win more. I did win medals in State Nationals after that, either Winner or Runner-Up.
I played my first Nationals at eight and also won my first medal in the national circuit in the same tournament. After this I was inspired to win more medals for Goa. Now badminton has become my life. I started playing Nationals regularly in the Under 13, 15, 17 and 19 categories. I focused on improving my performance and ranking at Nationals. Currently I am ranked 1st in Womens Singles and 1st in Womens Doubles in the senior category at Nationals. This had been one of my goals which I’ve now achieved.
Among the 52 medals I have won in the National and International category the one in 2012, the first national medal in badminton for Goa was notable. There was no looking back from there.
As my National rankings started improving, I got to play at an International tournament for the first time in 2011 at Pune. On the International stage, securing a place in the Top 32 at Yonex Sunrise India Open in 2016, 2017 and 2018, was self-inspiring. In 2017 I got to play against World No. 20 in senior category Japanese, Sayaka Sato. I lost but played a good game with a of 21-17, 21-16 scoreline.
In January 2017, at Syed Modi International Badminton Championship, I got an excellent chance to test myself against PV Sindhu in the Top 32 draw and also against Saina Nehwal at the recently concluded Senior Nationals Badminton Championship at Nagpur in the Semi Finals.
AR: What fascinates you about badminton? Why did you choose to be a shuttler and not go for some other sport?
AP: As I started badminton at an early age and decided to focus on it completely, I did not get to explore my talent in many other games. I just got into the flow as things happened and I slowly got very attached to the game. When I was around 10, coaches from swimming and athletics approached me to join their respective sport and said that I had the potential to do well in either of these. However I had made badminton my dream and I wanted to do well. I wanted to represent Goa, where very few have managed to do well. I am glad that I could bring Goa in the national spotlight in badminton.
AR: At what stage (age) did you begin taking badminton seriously? Routinely, what’s your training regimen like (daily and in a month)?
AP: It was around the age of eight after my National medal. My morning session is from 6:00 am to 7:30 am. Then next session starts at 14:00 and extends till 18:00. I also work out in the gym as instructed by my coaches and fitness instructor.
AR: What do you think Goa should do to produce more Anura’s? Is the badminton eco-system in Goa satisfactory for shuttlers to be competitive and emerge stars at the highest levels?
AP: Goa has good infrastructure. The Goa Badminton Association (GBA) coaches with the help of the Sports Authority of Goa are helping players in every way they can. One should work hard and perform at the state level consistently and then corporate sponsors like Geno Pharmaceuticals help the sportsperson to go to the next level.
AR: Saina Nehwal is bitter about the calendar being too cramped and players being compelled to play high number of tournaments. What is your take?
AP: At times tournaments are very close together and it can become difficult to handle tournaments one after another. But proper planning of tournament schedule can help mitigate this problem. Also I believe country should be kept first while planning the schedule.
AR: At the Nationals you lost in the semis to Saina Nehwal. How was it like facing her? Do you think she’s beatable?
AP: It was a good learning experience for me. I believe nobody is unbeatable if you train hard and come to their level of training.
AR: How soon can we expect Anura to leap from the National to International stage in the Sindhu-Nehwal league?
AP: I have changed my training pattern as per my coaches Jibi Varghees and Anshuman Hazarika at Nagpur. They are currently working on my game and my strength. I hope to perform at international level soon.
AR: Apart from yourself of course, who do you give credit for what you are in badminton?
AP: Without my parents and coaches support this would have not been possible. Currently I am training at the Jibi School of Sports at Nagpur under chief coach Jibi Varghese, sir Anshuman Hazarika, m’am Praveena Varghese and physio Moonmi Hazarika.
I am really thankful to Geno Pharmaceiticals for always supporting me and my well wishers. Coaches sir Roy Athaide at Panjim and sir Vinayak Kamat at Margao are always supportive. I still train under them when I am in Goa. My current fitness trainer in Goa is sir Krishnanath Naik.
The list of people who have helped me reach here is a long one and it’s very difficult to name all of them.
AR: Describe your best moment in badminton thus far.
AP: I don’t believe any single moment in my career till now qualifies for singular mention. However I do feel satisfied if I play a game to my fullest potential.
Perhaps the first medal in singles at Mauritus in 2017 representing India was one of the best. Also first singles medal (gold) for Goa in senior category at Sikkim Nationals in the year 2017 was memorable. I also won first singles medal (Bronze) for Goa after 47 years at Patna Nationals in the year 2012 and first Silver and Bronze in Senior Category for Goa in 2015. Also, I won first ever bronze medal for Goa at the National Games in 2015 and the first Gold in Badminton for Goa in Nationals (2014).
AR: What advice will you give badminton freshers?
AP: Everybody should play sports. It makes a person disciplined, healthy and mentally stronger. Nothing is easy to achieve as to succeed one must have courage, determination and strength to overcome all the hardships in life and keep going till you achieve your goals. Giving up cannot be an option!
Education is important but to parents I would say give at least one chance to your children. Provide them with facilities and let them prove themselves.