Badminton champ Jwala Gutta, who is a part of the Delhi team for the Indian Badminton League that kicks off today, hates rumours. The 29-year-old shuttler was linked to former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin not so long ago, and she says the scar from that episode stays on.
“This is the price one has to pay. I never considered myself a celebrity but once you do well, everybody wants to know what is happening in your personal life. I feel it is not fair. The speculators should know that we belong to good families and our parents get affected by all this. I hope people respect that before coming out with such baseless stories the next time. Such rumours are not good for women, especially in our country,” she says.
Gutta is happy that the chapter is over, and there’s the tournament to look forward to. “I was very happy when I got to know that I am a part of the Delhi team. I have a lot of followers here, so I am looking forward to represent the team.” Didn’t the Hyderabad loyal in her frown? “No ... If you see, almost all players belong to Hyderabad and it won’t be fair if the players have a choice. We play for our country and for the love of the game.”
As for the most obvious concern about cricket stealing the thunder from other sports in India, she says, “We can’t blame the game. My dad and all my friends love the game. Rather than complaining or cribbing about it, we should learn how to promote our game, from them.”
Ask her about her plans when here to play for the Delhi Smashers, and the Hyderabad-based player says, “I’ve been to Delhi a number of times. When I’m not playing, I’ll be looking forward to going shopping (laughs). PV Sindhu (who recently won a bronze at the World Badminton Championships) and I are actually planning to do that once we are in Delhi.”
The league, which kicks off today, follows the same format that the domestic T20 cricket league does. And Gutta is hopeful that it will be as successful as its cricket counterpart. “I hope it has a similar impact. There are a lot of expectations but it is the first edition, so let’s hope for the best. As long as it does well for badminton, I’m up for it,” she says. Sportstars enjoy quite a fan following. On being faced with crazy fans, Gutta says: “I’m used to it. It’s just that they love us too much. I’d really go crazy too, if I saw my favourite stars (tennis champ) Roger Federer and (athlete) Usain Bolt.”