Come July 24,Apinder Sabharwal,former Delhi badminton champion and now a qualified international umpire will be flying to London for the Olympics. Officially,he is the Badminton Association of India’s (BAI) representative who will join the elite panel of 28 umpires from around the globe for officiating during the quadrennial event. While he is the lone chair umpire from India to have been chosen,another umpire Girish Natu of Pune has been called by the International body.
Earlier,Sabharwal officiated in the Athens Olympics as a line judge in 2004. Since then,the 45-year-old has graduated from being a line judge to a chair umpire and had been part of the Sudirman Cup and the Hong Kong Open in the last few years. The London Olympics would certainly be an achievement and a career-high,but at the same time,Sabharwal denies being under pressure ahead of the London Games.
Neither I am under pressure nor will I succumb to nerves. Its just that I am a little cautious of the fact that I have to perform well. Temperament plays a big role in umpiring and my focus would be to take knowledgeable decisions sitting on the chair,in front of a huge crowd, said Sabharwal.
Over the course of his career Sabharwal has had to take a few bold calls that have earned him words of appreciation from personalities such as Pullela Gopichand. It was last year’s Sudirman Cup in China where Indonesian Hafiz Ashim was a game up on Lee Chong Wei. On match point in the second game,Sabharwal,officiating from the chair,over-ruled a call made by the line judge and adjudicated in favour of Lee Chong Wei. Having won that point,Chong Wei went on to win the match. I challenged that decision and it proved to be praiseworthy. Gopichand sitting in the stands came and congratulated me for my work. Things like these do motivate a lot, he added.
Altruism might be one of his traits,but fair play is an overwhelming requirement of his job as famous players like Peter Gade have found out. In 2009 at the Hong Kong Open,Pater Gade had to be cautioned for delaying the proceedings unnecessarily. A similar incident happened at the Sudirman Cup where an European player was fined USD 500 for her misdemeanor on court. European players especially lose their cool and have to be dealt with patience and knowledge, Sabharwal explained,stating that all this has been in the past and now he would like to face the future with a free mind at London.