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PV Sindhu in need of a purging journey before she becomes legend

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PV Sindhu in need of a purging journey before she becomes legend

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Subhayan Dutta

07/22/2019

What makes the love for a sport eternal is the exact thing that had made it exceptionally ruthless, to begin with. And it is the same element that has turned mere mortals into demigods throughout the ages.

The glory of a victor, which has built him empires and earned him worshippers, has always gone hand in hand with the despondency of a loser, whose “second best” tag has lost him popularity and sometimes even life.

With the stakes in competitions drastically diminishing in the modern age, it has also bred the depreciation of the winning mentality in individuals. While it would be wrong to claim that the world has stopped producing athletes of epic proportions for the likes of Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Phelps, and others who have shown tremendous capabilities in their area of expertise, this number only grows manifold when it comes to athletes who were blessed with the talent but not the psychology.

PV Sindhu would easily be clubbed in that category. Having the physical attributes, skill, experience, and age that she has on her side, the number of titles she has would be a serious underachievement. Claiming the fame with a silver medal in the Rio Olympics and then late in the Commonwealth Games 2018, Sindhu made quite an impression as fans looked up to her as Saina Nehwal’s successor. 

But, the Hyderabad girl has lacked a serious quality that the former blue-eyed badminton girl still has – determination. In an interview, Ratchanok Intanon had rightly stated, “Sindhu is like me; she gets excited and becomes too conscious about results. … She [Saina] is a fighter and mentally very tough. I have to learn from her the way she comes back stronger in matches. Mentality is important; it controls everything.” 

The heavens have rarely endowed the virtues of time and understanding upon an individual at the same time, and the ones that have it have become greats. Having played over 400 games at the age of 24, a 1.79m power-hitting Sindhu should have been dominating the biggest of stages, but instead, the athletes have come across a figure bearing a closed chest of incredible potential locked inside her.

Sindhu had defeated Nozomi Okuhara in the summit clash of the World Tour finals last year after losing in five consecutive final clashes prior to that, and fans were thrilled with the possibility of the superstar finally edging towards the glory she was destined to have. But, her loss on Sunday at the hands of Akane Yamaguchi, after wins against Okuhara and Chen Yu Fei in the quarters and the semis, has paralleled the destiny to just mere coincidence.

If life imitates art more than art imitates life, then Sindhu would also need to travel to the purgatory and back to forge herself into the winner that she is. Literature constructs have always portrayed a journey in themselves which the destined one would take to bring out his inner self that the mortal life always restricted. 

Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, who had to travel to the Dark Lands with his Excalibur to fully unravel the power of the sword; Hal Jordan, who had to fight with Kilowog and Sinestro to overcome fear and become the Green Lantern; or Arya Stark for that matter, who had to train as a Faceless Man at the House of Black and White in Braavos to eventually avenge his family. These might be fictional stories but the literary narratives have hardly changed over the ages - the protagonist undertakes a painful journey to find the best version of himself or herself.

Sindhu had numerous flaws in her game against Yamaguchi. Her judgment of the shuttlecock was terrible in the first game, hinting that she completely mistook the drift, apart from her monotonous returns that saw the Japanese following up quite easily with winners at the net. What’s more concerning is that this straight games loss came at the back of two victories for Sindhu where the Indian looked quite composed.

The journey of Sindhu’s self-discovery mightn’t include devastating challenges on the way as the above examples but it is one she has to undertake in order to step up before India leave for Tokyo next year. With Saina Nehwal in the dusk of her career, and Kidambi Srikanth a grand failed promise, Sindhu would be India’s biggest and only hope in badminton and quite fortunately, the potential contenders are pretty much acquainted with each other.

With her career’s last Olympics, and more importantly, tournament on the line, Tai Tzu Ying would be bringing her desperate self, while Carolina Marin would be at her unpredictable best after she returns from her injury. The other four contenders - Chen Yu Fei, Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara, and He Bingjiao – have also exchanged Superseries titles frequently over the last few years. Hence, there won’t be a better place or time for Sindhu to bring an unexpected winning mentality to the table which others aren’t expecting.

Pullela Gopichand has been in the news for his apparent rift with the Badminton Association of India (BAI) for not spending much time on tours with the established athletes. The veteran’s training has had a huge impact on Sindhu for what she is today, but if his current quest to nurture the young talent is a genuine one, then helping Sindhu’s self-discovery would be the last biggest help he could do for her and for Indian badminton.

Sindhu’s silver medal finish in 2016, with Amul’s “Sindhustan Hamara” campaign, had made the then 21-year-old a household name inspiring many youngsters in its wake. But, at the end of the day, history only remembers the victor, not those who fought for it. And as for Sindhu, she would be knowing very well that, “agar silver jeeti toh aaj nahi toh kal log tanne bhool javenge ... gold jeeti toh misaal ban javegi ... aur misaalein di jaati hai beta, bhooli nahi jaati…”

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