Un­cer­tain Saina ‘makes up’ mind to play in Lucknow

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - SPORT - Sharad Deep

LUCKNOW: 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 bronzemedal 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.”

Saina Ne­hwal. HT PHOTO

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