Image by: Stanislas PERRIN (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL]
There were two games which I was (supposedly) good at. One was cricket (living in India, this had to be) and another was shuttle badminton. We used to call it just shuttle. I took to badminton like how fish takes to water – OK, a bit late, during my 3rd or 4th standard perhaps. There was a ground in front of our apartments and at times we got barred from playing cricket (due to breaking of window glasses). In order to pacify the elders, we used to temporarily switch over to some other game. Sometimes it was shuttle.
Since it was an external (open) court, our game was prone to the wind-factor. Winning the toss was crucial because, we could then select the side which was aided by the wind. Anyone on the other side had to hit the cork really hard (against the wind) and their chances of winning were slim. At times, they used to hit so hard and still the cork didn’t cross their own court! Besides, corks needed frequent replacements.
Fed up, (and to cut running expenses of buying new corks) we decided to play tennis by lowering the net and using shuttle bats! Now, we didn’t have to buy new corks, but our shuttle bats started breaking. A couple of bats were totally broken, but fortunately mine just lost some guts. By this time, the elders relaxed a bit and we went back to cricket.
Why am I telling all this? Because, I want to tell you the unique history of my shuttle bat. It was a Silvers bat (the same brand everyone else had) but it was some other model that was priced slightly less than the Silvers Suzuki, the most popular model. Since it was new, no one had seen it till then. Also, because of the above incident, I went to change my guts and the sports shop fellow put on some crazy-looking blue color guts.
When I took it for shuttle coaching (by our own PT master, one hour before the classes begun), everyone thought that it was some high-end jazzy bat. Rumors spread fast that I was some kind of a player and I let them continue assuming. After all, I got compliments in the sports field, quite rarely!
I can sort of recollect the whole coaching (which went on for about 3 months). We played rallies, rallies and more rallies! No match practice, at all! The only match I played was a doubles match that me and one more boy played against two girls.
My partner was one of a kind, really. There was one rally in the match where I was behind and the girls started hitting the cork on my left and right continuously. I went left-right-left-right for at least four times and literally made to run all over. My first reaction (after losing the rally) was to stare at my partner. The ‘coach’ finally opened his mouth and told him, ‘You should have gone back and relieved him’. That was the only time I remember the coach opening his mouth, during the entire coaching session!
Finally, after a close contest and nail-biting finish, we boys managed to win the game. We had to, otherwise there would have been a lot of talking and giggling all over the school
Based on this coaching experience and the confidence of having only victor(y)ies behind me, I enrolled in a shuttle tournament conducted in a neighboring apartment. Participation was ten rupees per head and the above mentioned partner campaigned vigorously for my participation.
When the singles draw was announced, I was pitted against a ‘tough’ competitor. Or so, I was told by this guy. He went and told stories about my victories to my opponent as well, who was also nervous. Somehow I believed all that build-up and went to the referee and said, ‘We would rather meet in the semi-finals or finals. Can you make a re-draw?’
The referee just waved his hands and asked me to get on with the game. After a fiercely fought one-sided game, the scoreline was 15-4. Or rather, 4-15, result being against me. Even the result margin and losing 10 rupees didn’t bother me much. After the match, the opponent came to the nets and was standing there smiling and extending a hand. I looked at that useless partner. He too looked at me, smiling. I will never forget those five seconds. Exasperated, I went and shook hands and exited the venue with great speed. I thought to myself, ‘Thank God, this tournament didn’t happen in my apartment’.
For a long time, I believed that the wind had a big factor to play, in my career-ending loss. Maybe it did?