Tanisha Crasto is just 15 years old but there were times during her doubles matches at the junior national badminton championships in Lucknow on Thursday when she showed the temperament of an older athlete.
The shuttler from Goa especially took charge of her mixed doubles partnership with Ishaan Bhatnagar, as the two first ousted top seeds Sri Krishna Sai Kumar Podile and Srishti Jupudi in straight games, and then came from a game down to beat Sai Pavan Karri and Preethi K to book a spot in the semi-finals.
During both those matches, there were moments when Ishaan, who is a year older than Tanisha, lost his composure and began committing errors. However, Tanisha was there to calm him down.
She was heard saying, “Aaram se,” or take it easy, quite a few times during the matches, both of which lasted nearly an hour. In the end, she managed to get the best out of her partner, and they were rewarded with a spot in the semis. It’s a big deal for them, considering they started playing together only five months ago.
Tanisha, an attacking shuttler, is also in the girls doubles semi-finals along with Aditi Bhatt. The two are the fifth seeds in this tournament. It’s hard, therefore, to imagine that Tanisha was nowhere near the national circuit 18 months ago. She was, in fact, around 2,000 km away.
Tanisha was born in Dubai in 2003 to NRI, or Non-Resident Indian, parents and has lived there ever since. She trains at the India Club in Dubai, which is located right next to her school, The Indian High School. Tanisha started playing badminton when she was five years old after watching her father, Clifford. By the age of seven, she was participating in and winning local tournaments in Dubai.
Until July last year, Tanisha had only played badminton in the UAE and other countries in the Gulf, such as Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. She reached a point where she realised that she had gone as far as she could playing in that part of the world. “There was no competition for me in the whole Gulf,” she said, with no air of pomposity.
That’s when Tanisha’s father decided to bring her to India last year and got her enrolled to play on the national circuit. Tanisha could immediately tell the difference in the level of competition.
“The players here [in India] have so much better technique and fitness, whereas the players over there are… okay,” she said. “Here, each player has a completely different style, so you’ve got to sit and read each person’s game before you play with them. That’s shocking at some level but you also learn so much.”
Rather than being overawed or overwhelmed by the difference in quality of opponents, Tanisha revelled in the heightened competition. In her first All India Sub-Junior Ranking Tournament, in Jaipur last year, Tanisha won a silver in under-15 girls doubles with her then partner Lydia Barretto and reached the semi-finals of the singles.
“Soon after that, I played an All India [sub-junior ranking] tournament in Goa, my home state, and won silver in singles. In doubles we lost in the quarters,” she said. “I just got along with everything and everyone really well. I came to be known as the Dubai girl.”
Focus on singles
Earlier this year, Tanisha paired with Aditi Bhatt in women’s doubles and also started playing mixed with Ishaan. Tanisha and Aditi went on to win both the selection tournaments for the Badminton Asia Junior U-17 and U-15 Championships. Tanisha and Ishaan, meanwhile, won one of the selection tournaments but lost in the third round of the other.
While Ishaan did not make the squad, Tanisha and Aditi went on to reach the quarter-finals of the Asian juniors, before losing to a Hong Kong pair in three games. Tanisha and Aditi also represented India at the world junior championships last month, where they lost in the round of 16.
Now on the cusp of her first big final(s) since joining the Indian circuit, Tanisha is excited about the future. While winning two golds at the junior nationals are Tanisha’s immediate goals, she wants to win international medals next season and focus on improving her singles game.
“I don’t know why I’m doing so well in doubles,” she said. “I play a lot of doubles in Dubai and I enjoy it but I do singles training and I like it. I think I have to work more on singles.”
Tanisha also plans to move her base completely to India next season, rather than shuttling between here and Dubai. “I am in Class 10 and I am waiting for my board exams to get over. Once that is done, I will move permanently to India. I have got an offer from both the [Pullela] Gopichand and [Prakash] Padukone academies. I will take a call soon.”
Tanisha won’t be the only shuttler who will contest two semi-finals on Friday. Alap Mishra (singles and boys doubles) and Dingku Sing Konthoujam (boys and mixed doubles) will also have a chance to play in two finals.
The top three seeds in boys and girls singles all reached the semi-finals. Boys singles top seed Kiran George beat 11th seed Sathish Kumar K and Tharun M in straight games on Thursday to reach the last four, where he will take on third seed Orijit Chaliha, who beat Vikas Yadav and Arunesh H, also both in straight games.
Alap Mishra, the second seed, will take on BM Rahul Bharadwaj on Friday. Rahul is returning to the circuit after a long hiatus due to a knee injury. He has already beaten sixth seed Jaswanth D and fourth seed Maisnam Meiraba, both in straight games.
Girls singles top seed and defending champion Aakarshi Kashyap has also had no trouble so far. She beat Tasnim Mir and 15th seed Smit Toshniwal in straight games. Second seed Malvika Bansod was stretched by Taneesha Singh in the pre-quarters before coming through 19-21, 22-20, 21-16. She then beat 10th seed Drithi Yatheesh in straight games in the quarters.