By Veturi Srivatsa
Cricketers are not the only ones who manipulate the media. These days all sports persons with major achievements are in the news regularly, failing which they feel their market value takes a tumble. Wrestlers, boxers and shooters all have their media favourites.
Tennis makes news so long as Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi keep discussing their differences as also their frequently changing equation with the All India Tennis Association (AITA).
Sania Mirza is very much in the media loop as a top doubles player on the Tour and the top men’s player Somdev Devvarman chose to lead a players’ revolt against the AITA to be in the news more than his good showing on the circuit.
Currently, Sania’s city-mate and the country’s top badminton star Saina Nehwal is unhappy with a lot of things in life generally and with her long-standing coach in particular. She too has found a way to ventilate her grievances through media.
A naturalised Hyderabadi, Saina feels she belongs to Telangana as much as Sania, who has recently been named brand ambassador of the new state, and so her sporting success should have been measured by the same yardstick.
It is not only the sports administrators who can teach the careerist politicians a thing or two on politicking — sports persons are equally adept.
Saina has shown an uncanny sense of timing in confiding in a media chum of her decision to leave Pullela Gopichand and train with Vimal Kumar on a day when badminton buffs were celebrating the return home of her Gopichand Academy-mate Pusarla Venkata Sindhu after winning her second successive World Championships bronze medal at Copenhagen.
Saina’s timing of the announcement was not lost on the badminton fraternity in Hyderabad as it was front page news. She has suddenly found the extraordinary coaching capabilities of Vimal and stated that her current mentor Gopichand has given her the go-ahead for the fortnight trip.
She has reasoned out the necessity to go to Bangalore to train under Vimal, saying his “tips” helped her during the Uber Cup in New Delhi in May and that she just wants to give it a try.
Gopi refused to react, though Saina told the reporter “exclusively” that she had informed Gopi sir during the World Championships. Gopi still refused to react, though those who know him well swear that he has told them that he came to know of her decision from media reports!
Saina’s decision is not at all surprising for all those who have been following her career. She had split with Gopi in 2011 a year before the London Games to train with Bhaskar Babu and within three months she was back with the chief national coach, publicly regretting her decision to move away from him.
A day after refusing to react, Gopi subtly had a telling remark without taking any names. He said it is important to move on forgetting losses. For good measure, he added that this is not the time to make any changes in a player’s game with hardly two weeks left for the Incheon Asian Games to start, though the players are fee to train wherever they feel comfortable.
By inference, Gopi said he saw little sense in players shifting from one coach to another before a major event. Those who claim to be eyes and ears of Saina say that this split can be for good because she may not like to train with the fast improving Sindhu at Gopi’s academy.
The same so-called source has a more startling revelation — that Saina is getting increasingly uncomfortable training with the teenager!
The story is still unfolding.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)