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16 Mar, 2021
There’s always a sense of anticipation and excitement to watch young talent emerge on the big stage, and in badminton there isn’t quite anything bigger than the All-England Open Badminton Championships where the talented Indian duo – Shikha Gautam & Ashwini Bhatt will be making their debut at the Birmingham event.
Catching up with the youngsters prior to their departure, the excitement was indeed palpable while their sense of being grounded, also unmistakable. The two of them have been playing together for close to two years now, but then much of the last year was a washout down to the corona virus pandemic.
Ask them about how the All-England happened, and the two of them still seem to be processing it all. They admit that it did take them a little bit by surprise, but now that it has come to pass the two of them are up and ready for the big stage battle.
“Our coach advised us to go ahead and send in our entries and see what happens. And by God’s grace we’ve got in now!” says Shikha.
“Also, we’re ready for the challenge and it should be exciting,” adds the current National Champion.
Looking back at the difficult year that has gone by, the youngsters have nothing but a positive outlook of things. They’ve been practicing together for the last six months and are confident of being able to feature and do well at tournaments, even if they are as big & prestigious ones as the All-England Open.
“Of course, it’s quite a prestigious event and it will be an honor to feature in it, but then once we’re on the court it will be the same mindset and approach that we carry-in to every other match and tournament, that won’t change,
“Besides, it’s an opportunity that we’ve got to showcase our potential and therefore want to make sure we use it to the fullest,” admits Shikha.
Talking about the possible returns from their appearance at the All England, the duo has a very measured and realistic perspective. They understand that they are up against the very best in the world and therefore the expectations are more towards what they can learn & earn in terms of knowledge from the tournament rather than worrying about the kind of results that they can produce.
“We are playing the world number 15 in the opening round and that ought to give us some excellent exposure. But whoever is on the other side of the court, it will not stop us from giving our best, that much is sure,” adds Ashwini.
Not just the exposure from playing against the top players, Ashwini & Shikha are also looking forward to spending time with the more seasoned campaigners from the Indian team set up itself.
While there continues to be a little bit of uncertainty surrounding the future of the tournaments for the season, the talented duo from Bangalore remains nothing but positive – both about the past year and the times ahead. There isn’t a lot of disappointment you find in them with regard to all the time lost in the course of the pandemic, and that is an excellent attitude.
“We had a lot of plans for 2020, but none of those materialized and yet none of what we have been doing have changed. We’ve prepared all the same and have the same set of goals of improving our rankings, hopefully will qualify for the world championships, while hoping to represent the country at the Asian & Commonwealth games in the future,” sums up Ashwini.
The quick catch-up concluded the two of them hustle back on to the court and hopefully to continue to their training session. Now all the preparation done, and with the D-day having arrived, here’s hoping they go out there, express themselves as best as they know, and in the process go further than just the opening round of the marquee tournament of the year.