Sourabh, a badminton star in the making

April 28th, 2011 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Sourabh Verma’s sterling performance at the India Open Super Series has come as a breath of fresh air. The youngster from Madhya Pradesh showed enough grit and determination in the last two days in slaying some of the top names in international badminton to reach the quarterfinal.

His lean body betrays the mental strength he has shown on the court.

For a qualifier to upset Athens Olympics bronze medallist Sony Kuncoro and follow it up with another stunning win over World No. 25 Kenichi Tago Thursday, Sourabh has shown that he belongs there.

Playing his first Super Series event, Sourabh has made a strong statement — that he is not overawed by reputation.

The 20-year-old, who hails from headquarters of Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, began playing badminton as any other youngster in the local club, accompanying his father for an evening stroll.

“My father used to take me to badminton courts and that is how I got acquainted with the game. There is a SAI (Special Area Games) centre in Dhar where I learnt the ropes and started performing well at the junior level. It is after winning the under-10 national ranking tournament that I thought of pursuing the sport,” Sourabh told IANS.

“I graduated through the ranks and performed well at all junior events. I was selected for the Commonwealth Games camp in Hyderabad. After meeting Pullela Gopichand sir and seeing the facilities at the academy I decided to stay and train there. Gopi sir is an inspiration. The facilities that we have in Dhar are not up to the mark, though the stadium is huge.”

Interestingly, while Sourabh, who won the All India Senior ranking tournament in February, is the No.1 senior player in the domestic rankings, his younger sibling Sameer is the top-ranked junior shuttler of the country and also trains at the Gopichand academy.

Sourabh also did well at the junior Asian and World Championships in 2007.

For someone whose first major international tournament was the Asian Badminton Championship before this event, Sourabh is fast learning the tricks of the trade.

“The Asian Badminton Championship was my first major senior international tournament outside the country and I fared poorly. When you play abroad there are a lot of things that you have to take care of like the sleeping pattern, the food etc. It was an experience that will help me in future.

“This performance has given me the confidence to do well. Now I need to play in more international tournaments this year.”

A middle-class boy, he will be needing sponsors to further his career, a difficult thing in India if the sport is not cricket.

“After I did well at the U-13 level, NTPC and later ONGC came to sponsor me.

“But it is very difficult to manage the finances if you are playing on your own outside the country. Till now I was playing in only government-sanctioned events, but now I have to take part in more international tournaments.”

Gopichand believes that Sourabh can go a long way.

“He is a gritty player. His defence is good and he needs to improve on his attacking game and that will come to him in due course of time.

“He has upset two top international players in two days. He has the self-belief and determination. He has a heart to fight and if he sees any chinks in his opponent’s armour, he will exploit it,” said Gopichand.

“He defeated Chetan Anand at the nationals. The way he has played here, he looked great. Hopefully he will carry on like this and fulfil his potential.”

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