|Kapil Dev & Sachin Tendulkar
Calcutta: Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar, two of India’s biggest icons, have applauded petite Saina Nehwal for getting our first Olympic medal (a bronze) in badminton.
Late on Saturday, record-smasher Sachin texted The Telegraph: “Saina’s made India proud and will continue to do so... Watching her play, she comes across as totally committed with plenty of talent. I haven’t met her in person, though.”
Around the same time, India’s first captain to win a cricket World Cup, Kapil Dev, spoke to this newspaper over the phone.
Kapil said: “It would’ve been better had Saina not won by default, after her opponent got injured... She was trailing, but I was confident she’d come back strongly...
“The impression I got is that Saina, perhaps, hadn’t fully got over her loss to the eventual silver medallist, Wang Yihan... But, like millions in India, I had plenty of faith in her.”
Kapil, who has been following Saina’s career with much interest and had once offered to help her with sponsorship, added: “What’s remarkable is that Saina has raised the bar for Indian women...
“I don’t think there are more than a few hundred women shuttlers of quality in the country, compared to thousands in China, but there’s going to be a boom now... Saina’s a new age-woman... Gifted and so successful.”
When asked to comment on Saina having turned down four endorsements as she didn’t want to lose time doing promotionals and fulfilling other contractual obligations, Kapil responded: “This is a very personal thing... More money could mean less of a dependence on both the government and the association...
“Sachin and (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni endorse a lot, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t focused... It’s about balancing priorities.”
According to Kapil, the government should extend “much more support” to disciplines such as badminton, particularly after young Saina’s stellar show in London.
“Saina won us a medal, but (Parupalli) Kashyap also did India proud by reaching the quarter finals... Who knows, we could have more Sainas and Kashyaps waiting somewhere, waiting for opportunities,” Kapil pointed out.
Kapil signed off saying: “I’m looking forward to shaking Saina’s hand... In fact, I would have done so even if she didn’t get the bronze... I’d still give her 100 out of 100 for reaching the last-four of such a huge event.”
It’s always dil se from Kapil.
Footnote: A week ago, talking of Saina, Kapil had told The Telegraph: “I love this shuttler... Has come up the hard way, keeps a low profile, but is a transformed woman when on court... I’ve always been impressed...”