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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Inspired by Saina, Dubai teenager Tanisha’s golden run in juniors

Tanisha Crasto completed a second successive double in as many weeks by winning the women’s (partnering Aditi Bhatt) and mixed doubles (with Ishaan Bhatnagar) titles at the All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament on Sunday.

other-sports Updated: Aug 28, 2019 23:45 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A file photo of badminton player Tanisha Crasto.
A file photo of badminton player Tanisha Crasto.(HT Photo)

While PV Sindhu was unleashing her devastating smashes against Nozomi Okuhara in the World Championship final in Basel, another Indian shuttler—a junior—was quietly making inroads in the domestic circuit in Bengaluru.

Tanisha Crasto, 16, completed a second successive double in as many weeks by winning the women’s (partnering Aditi Bhatt) and mixed doubles (with Ishaan Bhatnagar) titles at the All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament on Sunday.

The triumphs have made her an automatic choice for World Junior Championships to be held in Kazan, Russia, in October.

This was a giant step up for Crasto, who only shifted to India in May.

Born and brought up in Dubai, Crasto picked up badminton at the age of five. After regularly winning tournaments in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, she decided to raise her level by playing in the Indian domestic circuit two years back.

“My family still lives in Dubai. My dad used to play badminton and would take me along with him everyday, make me sit to watch him play. One day I told him that I too wanted to play. That’s how it started,” says Crasto, who needs to return to Dubai every six months to renew her visa.

Impressed with her performances, the Gopichand Badminton Academy coaches approached her father Clifford Crasto during the junior nationals in December 2018 at Lucknow, convincing him to enrol her at the academy that has produced the likes of Sindhu and Saina Nehwal.

“I always wanted to join this academy. I was going to join in December but since I wanted to complete my class ten boards (in March) I told the academy that I’ll join after that,” Crasto says. “I always wanted to play for India and knew it wouldn’t have been possible staying in Dubai.”

Though Dubai had excellent facilities, Crasto realised that to up her level, she needed better coaches and sparring partners.

“The level of training in India, the discipline, tight schedule, even the atmosphere is very different from Dubai,” she says. “The more I get to play with better players, the more I improve.”

Crasto, who will play the $15,000 India Junior International in Pune from August 29, says the shift to Hyderabad was not easy. It was not just adjusting to a new city and a new culture, but also the training sessions, which are far tougher than what she is used to. “Gopi sir’s training sessions are really hard. He is a very good coach and wants us to do everything perfectly,” says Crasto, who can speak English, Hindi, Arabic and Marathi apart from her mother tongue Konkani. “The drills, I had never done them before, it was something new. I found it hard and challenging but it’s totally worth it. After doing them I feel much better on court and can move faster. Multi-shuttle, pair, rotation, stroke perfection, quick movement. We do several drills multiple times.”

Saina, my idol

Crasto has had one wish already fulfilled. She now gets to train alongside her idol Nehwal. It was during the BWF World Super Series Finals in Dubai in 2015 that Crasto first met the London Olympics bronze medallist.

“I was one of the brand ambassadors for the tournament and had done an advertisement. Saina saw that and tweeted that she’ll come and meet me in Dubai. That’s when they kept a one-on-one on-court session with her. We also went to Bollywood Park and I showed Saina the complex,” says the 16-year-old, who is also inspired by Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy’s recent success. “We even train together. Watching them train and play boosts our confidence.”