NEW DELHI: Twenty years, five months and 26 days. That’s the age of India’s men’s doubles player Chirag Shetty. From being in mid-300s earlier this year to making it to the World Championship in August while partnering Satwiksairaj Rankireddy was major progress.
When Indian badminton was celebrating the success of singles players, the two boys have silently climbed up to World No 31. They announced themselves following a win in the Tata Open last year, and have since been taking baby steps to get into the reckoning. They won Bangladesh International at the end of 2016, and emerged triumphant in Vietnam International this year.
“Our competition is overseas. Not amongst us (Indians). When we start competing among us, we won’t look at broader goals. Like our coach says, our main aim is to perform well at the international level. It’s good to be ranked as the country’s No 1, but that doesn’t really matter,” Chirag said.
In August, they surpassed veterans Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy to become India’s No 1. Chirag credits coach Tan Kim Her for the growth. He attributes his rise to the way Tan has modified training. “He’s been a great influence. In our country’s scenario, there is no one to look up to as a role model when it comes to doubles. Earlier, our drill standards and training used to be singles-centric. That’s when he came in. He’s brought in a lot of experience in training, which is specifically for doubles. That has helped all of us. Even Ashwini (Ponnappa, Sikki (Reddy), Pranaav Jerry Chopra are doing well.”
Doing his final year in B Com at the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics, Chirag says that at a young age there is an option of missing a few tournaments, which in turn gives him the possibility of managing personal life with sports.
“I missed Hong Kong Open this year. Satwik played mixed doubles but I didn’t because of exams. Then I played in Tata Open. It’s difficult but we have to manage. Since I’m in my final year, it’s relatively easy.”
With recognition and performance comes pressure. But Chirag reveals that he isn’t facing any at the moment, and it is consistency that he and his partner are focussing on for the next year. “I think consistency comes with experience.
Right after PBL, we have Malaysia Open and Indonesia Open. Our schedule is packed. We will be having less time for practice. Our main aim is to play a Superseries semifinal. If there’s a write-up on me, I would love it to be ‘Chirag, quarterfinalist in so and so competition’ as compared to being mentioned as ‘World No 30s’. As far as winning is concerned, we have never won a GP. Our focus is winning one.”
Awadhe Warriors win
Saina Nehwal of Awadhe Warriors beat Michelle Li to help her team beat North Eastern Warriors 4-3. Kidambi Srikanth lost to North East’s Wang Tzu Wei.