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Silent stars

There are glory tales beyond cricket too. It's just that not many of us are bothered about these 'other' champions.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 15:19 IST

There’s passion and glory beyond cricket. Of course, it’s useless telling this to Indians who would rather discuss Pathan’s lack of confidence or Sehwag’s technical flaws, but there is a whole new crop of talented young Indians who are winning international accolades in sports other than cricket.

It’s just that all they can manage is a one-time front page story in newspapers and a single-day flash in TV channels (endorsements don’t even pass anywhere near their abodes).

A new racquet story

There’s something about Hyderabad which has thrown up another champion in Saina Nehwal. The 16-year-old badminton player just did India proud by winning the Philippines Open and thus became the first Indian woman to win any international four star badminton event.

Saina beat world number 66, Pei Xian Julia Wong of Malaysia in Manila for the title and had toppled even top seed Xu Huwaien on her way.

Of bows and balls

There are others too who are silently shooting their way to the top.

Jayant Talukdar, 20, defeated 1996 Atlanta Olympic silver medallist Magnus Petersson at the archery World Cup in Croatia to win the first individual gold for the country. His achievement ensured him a place among the top ten in world archery. Golfer Shiv Kapur, 24, won the Arjuna Award right at the start of his career, thanks to his gold feat at the 2002 Busan Asian Games.

He had also won the Volvo Masters of Asia last December. Squash player Joshna Chinappa, 20, from Chennai, won the prestigious tournament , the British Open in 2005.

Endorsements, what?

However, unlike cricketers, these success stories end at winning titles. You can seldom find them selling brands on TV or flashing smiles at power dos. Says Latika Khaneja, of Collage Sports, “It’s difficult to market players from other sports due to lack of visibility and TV coverage.”

Yudhajit Dutta of Game Plan adds: “Marketing agencies are focused on cricket and Bollywood. Players like Sania Mirza are exceptions.”

VK Malhotra of the Indian Olympic Association feels that it is due to media apathy.

“Noncricket players are hardly mentioned on TV, even their financial gains are negligible.” Quips golfer Shiv Kapur, “With cricket being a religion in India, you see golf on TV only when cricket is not on.”

National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand agrees and cites the example of empty sta diums which “greet us even during professional badminton tournaments.” However, big, consistent achievements do help in changing things. Tennis and shooting are recent examples. Probably, in times to come, glamour might invade other sports in India too.