There was a gap of at least 30 minutes between the penultimate and last match of finals day at the junior national badminton championships on Saturday at the Babu Banarasi Das Badminton Academy in Lucknow.
There was no prize distribution ceremony or any other activity planned in those 30 minutes. The delay was simply because the organisers were waiting for the chief guests and their entourage, including the local media, to arrive.
The first four finals of the day were watched only by a handful of spectators, most of whom were players who had lost earlier in the tournament and had stayed back, along with their family members. However, the couches reserved for the chief guests lay empty, while a television crew captured only the first two finals of the day before packing up.
While all this happened, the girls doubles final pairs – Tanisha Crasto/Aditi Bhatt and Shruti Mishra/Samridhi Singh waited patiently. As the local media finally arrived, they scampered around looking for the winners of the four finals that had already ended. The chief guests and their entourage then finally arrived to watch the only local representation on finals day in Lucknow – the fifth seeds Shruti and Samridhi, who train at the BBD academy.
For all the drama, and inconvenience caused to the players, who really should be the star attraction at a sports event, the match lasted just 25 minutes. Much to the disappointment of the local media, Shruti and Samridhi lost the match 13-21, 10-21. However, it didn’t matter much to the mediapersons, as they just flocked over to the chief guests’ area to get bytes from some of the dignitaries.
The girls doubles final was not the only match that was delayed on Saturday. The girls singles final between defending champion Aakarshi Kashyap and third seed Purva Barve was also delayed by about 20 minutes. The organisers said they had scheduled for the match to start at 4.30 pm, while the boys singles final before that ended at 4.10 pm, and hence the delay. Go figure.
Aakarshi later admitted that the delay had affected her, as she went down 1-9 in the first game and wasn’t able to find her rhythm till the first interval. “I think that was only one reason why I started so slowly,” she said. . My warm-up was done by the time the boys singles final got over but my match started only 20 minutes later. That’s why at the start of the game my movement was slow but it got better eventually.”
Aakarshi fought back well after her slow start and started to attack Purva more, picking up her pace. She eventually levelled the scores at 12-12 and then went into the lead for the first time in the match at 16-15. At 17-15, Purva, perhaps realising that the momentum had shifted towards Aakarshi, called for a medical timeout after losing a long rally. However, Aakarshi by then had figured out how to deal with delays and went on to bag the game 21-17.
The defending champion was in complete control in the second game, as Purva started committing error after error, before Aakarshi won the match 21-17, 21-8 in 35 minutes. “It feels great to have won the national title two times,” added Aakarshi. “I had lost to Purva in our last two matches so I’m happy I could pull through today.”
The boys singles final before that was also almost a one-sided affair. Top seed Kiran George started the match really well and cruised to a win in the first game 21-10. However, Alap responded well in the second as he upped the pace of his game and played really well at the net to take a 7-1 lead. Alap eventually won that game 21-13 to send the match into a decider.
However, any hopes that the 100-odd spectators had of a thrilling finale were dispelled as Kiran matched Alap’s pace and raced to a 11-4 lead at the change of ends. Alap, playing his 11th match in the last five days across singles and doubles, did not have enough juice left in his legs as he lost the decider 9-21. Kiran, therefore, ended his final year in juniors with the national championship title.
“It’s a big achievement for me,” said Kiran after the match. “I played two finals before this and lost both of them. This was my third final this year, so I had to win it. I was confident I will win this title.”
Boys doubles top seeds Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala and Sri Krishna Sai Kumar Podile then defended their national title as they defeated second seeds Manjit Singh Khwairakpam and Dingku Sing Konthoujam 21-11, 21-19.
Podile took off his shirt and roared in delight after winning the final point, which earned him a yellow card from the umpire, but that hardly mattered. “It was in response to what our opponents had done after beating us in a ranking tournament earlier this year,” he said after the match.
In the first final of the day, mixed doubles third seeds Sai Pratheek Krishna Prasad and Ashwini Bhat K defeated fifth seeds Akshan Shetty and Rashi Lambe 21-13, 21-15.