When India had bagged nine gold and 41 other medals at the Asian Games (at the time of writing) it would seem churlish and unfair to keep focusing on the “gold” that continues to elude Pursala Venkata Sindhu.
Yet that lament is essentially the result of the high expectations raised by the consistently sterling accomplishments of the shuttler from Hyderabad who has on previous occasion come within striking distance of winning a major ~ a victory which in many an Indian sports-lover’s book would equate with winning another World Cup in cricket, or re-claiming the top slot in hockey.
It is not the best of journalistic practices to quote from within one’s own columns, but nothing sends the message home more forcefully than the report which cited an old adage, “you don’t win silver, you lose gold”.
That painful reality must temper all the praise showered on Sindhu’s frequently finishing the runner-up, and even her joining Saina Nehwal in winning the first Asiad medals in women’s badminton for India.
Make no mistake about it, competition in the Asian Games has ever been of the highest class, and this time around only the name of Carolina Marin of Spain was missing from the galaxy of superstars that adorned the court.
Yet even Sindhu’s most ardent fan would concede that she was outplayed 13-21, 16-21 by the diminutive powerhouse from Chinese Taipei, Tai Tzuying. In her other “big” silvers Sindhu had run Marin and Okuhara pretty close: she was left-stranded by Tai. Sugar-coating her loss would prove counter-productive.
So is her shortcoming a deficit in mentalstrength? Tai’s track record ensures she remains at the top of the tree, but until Jakarta she too had stumbled in the Oympics and World Championships: no such niggle was evident at the Asian Games. She had come fortified for the challenges.
Comparisons are seldom pleasant, but it would do Pulella Gopichand no harm to evaluate the need for professional psychiatric assistance to inculcate in Sindhu the streak of aggression (not necessarily manifest as in Marin’s case) that all champions must possess.
The coach has worked wonders, it would not diminish his accomplishments if he were to draw upon external expertise to hone the cutting edge of his ward. In fact he would earn unlimited admiration if doing so resulted in Sindhu achieving her personal, and Indian badminton’s, crowning glory.
Perhaps there is also need for re-working Sindhu’s tournament schedule. True that the Badminton World Federation is a demanding taskmaster, yet the importance of conserving physical and mental energy for the majors must not be underestimated.
Sindhu, and Saina, have done India proud at Jakarta, and elsewhere: they merit applause for doing so. But equally they must be goaded into acquiring winning ways. We love a good loser ~ but go into ecstasy over a winner. What’s the preferred sentiment?