A WINNER CALLED SAINA
Imagine badminton star Saina Nehwal gobbling up ice-cream through the night after winning her first major international title, the Indonesia Super Series of 2009! Sounds amusing, but then it’s true. “She was just 19 then and couldn’t believe that she had won the tournament. She was looking at the medal in her room, trying to cope with the reality. I liked the way she narrated the incident to me,” says journalist T S Sudhir who has penned a book, Saina Nehwal: An Inspirational Biography, on the youth icon. “It showed that despite her aggressive stance on the court, there is a child in her,” says the author who has been a family friend.
But then why Saina and why not some other sports icon? “Most of us do not know much about this young player, except for her feats on the badminton courts. I thought this information gap must be bridged. And the best way is to write the book,” explains Sudhir who has been a television and print journalist for 20 years. “This is an honest journalistic account about a young person who hates to be defeated. And that is the takeaway from this book for all young sportspersons. The story of courage and grit, I am sure, will inspire all youngsters across their social backgrounds,” asserts Sudhir. “Her mental strength is amazing and is worth emulating.”
Written in a simple language, the book is aimed at “young sportspersons, their parents and coaches who will get to know what it took for Saina, her parents and coaches to get her where she is now.” The curiosity that people have about Saina is likely to grow, says Sudhir, if the youngster wins a medal at the forthcoming London Olympics. “So, I thought this is the right time to come up with this book which is her first biography,” he adds. “Her parents, her coaches, especially Pullela Gopichand, have been instrumental in keeping Saina grounded. Success didn’t get into her head. She has remained focussed and always worked on her mistakes.” All of that comes quite well in the book.
However, the book is more about Saina rather than her games. “Usually, sports biographies tell us about the matches one played in the past. As a reader and author, I often cannot relate to those past matches. So, in this book I tried to tell Saina’s story through anecdotes, rather than analysing the games she played,” informs Sudhir who had been following Saina’s games and the badminton in general for years.
How was the research like? “It was massive. There is not much information about her. So, I interviewed Saina, her parents and coaches several times. And then being a trained journalist I had to raise questions to have an objective view about her,” Sudhir explains. “I did not let my admiration for Saina’s grit, for her coaches and sportspersons to overwhelm my writing. I didn’t want to be judgemental in any way. All I did was to bring her story to public domain. It is not T S Sudhir who is telling that, but those who know Saina for years who are telling it.”
Did he deal with the phase when Saina and her coach Gopichand had a rift? “I didn’t avoid it. They were not very keen to talk about that phase. But then we being journalists, cannot really give up. We question, and look through the magnifying glass. So, they did talk about it and I have dealt with it in the book,” Sudhir informs.
So, on the whole how will he define Saina? Sudhir smiles. “Saina is still a simple girl who is not carried away by her success. The credit goes to her parents and Gopichand,” he reiterates before we part.