In 2018, Lakshya Sen earned India a bronze in the boys’ singles at the BWF World junior badminton championships. This time around, emulating that performance seems a tough task for the 23-member squad that will travel to Kazan, Russia later this month.
“This is a whole new team,” said junior National Coach Sanjay Mishra, who put his wards through the paces at the Karnataka Badminton Academy courts on Tuesday. “Most are under-17 and will be at the Worlds for the first time. It’s a big-name tournament and comes with huge pressure. Last time in the team championship we played the quarters. If we repeat it this time, it will be big achievement.”
With the likes of Lakshya and Aakarshi Kashyap — both aged 18 — choosing to concentrate on their senior careers, it will be up to Manipur’s Maisnam Meiraba (2018 Asian Championships u-17 singles bronze medallist), Tamil Nadu’s Satish Kumar and Gujarat’s Tasnim Mir to lead the charge. But their inexperience on the world stage can prove a hurdle.
“We have some very good individual players who can beat anybody on their day,” Mishra said. “Meiraba has played at international meets and won medals in Russia and Bulgaria. Tasnim is only 15 but is playing very well. She won the mixed doubles gold in Dubai recently. But the Worlds is about pressure. It’s a big-name tournament.”
However, keeping the players from getting demotivated was crucial, Mishra felt. “The junior years are tricky. Players check the full profile of their opponents and see who all they have beaten. If there are victories over big stars, they start taking pressure. So a lot of counselling is required.”
The exposure, though, will be crucial in the players’ development, Mishra opined. “If at 15 and 16 they are playing the World Juniors, in two years they will give good results. Like Tasnim, who by the time she is 17 will have played two or three and will be able to handle the pressure and excel.”