At a time when India was fading into mediocrity, a youngster emerged who would save the sport from falling into the depths of indifference as had happened to Indian football all those years ago.This would inspire a whole generation of athletes who would eventually become a force to be reckoned with.
I could easily make this case for both Saina Nehwal and Sachin Tendulkar. Her accolades to go along with her longevity in a physically demanding sport is nothing short of what Tendulkar did for India. But not everyone is a Tendulkar or Nehwal in this world. Not everyone can hope to put on numbers that make no sense. For every Tendulkar out there, there is a Yuvraj Singh who will turn up when all the eyeballs are transfixed on the television screens all across the world. Sindhu is Saina’s Yuvraj.
August 20, 2016, was the day when PV Sindhu finally replaced, at least in my opinion, Saina Nehwal as the golden girl of Indian badminton. Not in terms of achievement - she might never do that - but rather in shining when the lights were brightest. Despite having turned professional in 2009, she had made it to just two Superseries finals, winning none. But with every Indian athlete failing at the biggest stage with the entire world watching on, Sindhu stood tall. She was not going to be denied. The semi-final against Nozomi Okuhara would have been nerve-racking because, at least at that moment in time, it appeared India would return empty-handed from Rio. When the lights came on in Rio, it was the tall Indian shuttler who walked the path that Saina had taken, four years ago and outdid arguably the greatest badminton player that India has ever produced.
While we all expected her to kick on from there on, it was not as simple as that. To be fair, she went on to win three Superseries titles but that is something that we have decided to look past. It is the defeats that we have decided to talk about. Be it the final of the World Championships last year. Or the year ending Finals. Or the India Open loss earlier this year. Or maybe the loss to a 28-year-old Nehwal in Gold Coast. What we have forgotten is that she is still just 23! What we have, for some reason, decided to look past is the achievement of getting there with the amount of talent in her category. But this week has been glorious. There has been a sense of inevitability to the results. There has been a swagger in his game that for the longest time we did not believe was there. She has come back from the dead in the last two games, Okuhara and Yamaguchi, and been clutch when it counted.
She might have lost five finals in the last year or so but I have a feeling that Sindhu will sleep better than most Indian badminton fans today. The way she handled herself on the court against two of the most-agile and tough players on the circuit tells me that she is ready. Before the tournament, she made the claim that she knew how to beat Tai Tzu Ying. While everyone in the media just jumped on the quote, in retrospect, it might have been a way of telling the country that she is ready. She has another date with destiny. For far too long has she been denied. But I have a feeling that tomorrow will not be that day. Tomorrow could finally be the day when history books will be rewritten. Tomorrow could be the day when India will finally have a World Champion in badminton.
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