Has the lure of the lucre played a big role in swaying shuttler Saina Nehwal to play the Syed Modi International India Grand Prix Gold Championship, commencing here on Wednesday?
The London Olympic Games bronze-medallist had told HT earlier in the day that she was not sure about her participation in the tournament. In the first week of December too, the Hyderabad shuttler had categorically said that the tournament was not a priority for her.
However, after signing a deal with a leading sponsor in the evening, she surprised everyone by saying, "Yes, I am playing here."
Though this has left the organisers — Uttar Pradesh Badminton Association (UPBA) and Badminton Association of India (BAI) — happy, it still is baffling how she changed her mind at the last minute. While there was no official word forthcoming from the sponsors, an organiser said on condition of anonymity that, “This isn't the time to go into the nitty-gritty. Right now, we want Saina to play.”
There was talk in hushed tones about how players' agents set terms and conditions for the organisers to follow and how the organisers have to bow to the players' demands.
Be that as it may, Saina will be seen in action in India for the first time after her bronze-medal winning performance in London. Winner of 2010 edition of the Syed Modi tournament here, Saina pulled out at the last minute in 2011 because of fever.
Saina, who has been given top billing, will take on Russia's Ksenia Polikarpova in her opening-round match on Wednesday.
After confirming her participation, Saina told Hindustan Times, “International schedules are so hectic. I need to be fit for bigger events. It's true that I haven't played the nationals since 2008, but this is because I want juniors to get more mileage out of it.”