July 1, 2009 7:11:17 am
Jamie Bonsels doesn’t pretend to be an Englishman who was lured by adverts of Incredible! India,and took the first flight out to Mumbai. He admits to being wary of the food and the water _ theres no talk of tucking into the chicken tikka the moment he lands _ and he’s not singing odes to the culture and exotica of the country,thatll be his home for the next month. He keeps to the bland script,and says he feared the heat,and didnt reckon he was ready to come here. The 19-year-old is in India for a three-week stint of badminton coaching at the Prakash Padukone Aacdemy,Bangalore,and he’d like nothing better to do here than a good hit on the court. I’m just looking forward to the badminton. I’ve read up on the country,but I want to get started on the shuttle, he opens,ahead of the Tata Open,where he’ll add a foreign element to the competition,plus test his self-mettle against established Indians.
Theres this fraternal feeling shared by Indians and the English on the mission of dislodging the Far East Asian shuttlers _ Chinese and Malaysians and Indonesians from their prime posts. And after Rajeev Ouseph last year,it is now the turn of Bonsels to make the India pit-stop and pick a few lessons here. It’s hard being a European in badminton with the Asians dominating. You look at Chen Long,who made the Malaysian Super Series final at my age,and it seems even more tough. But then there’s Peter Gade _ an European legend who’s proved that its not impossible to get to that level. So even if I reach where Chen Long has reached in another four years,it’s alright, he says.
The odds get stacked higher still,since Britain has been doing well in the doubles section,with the singles players pushed to the shadows. I did play some doubles as a junior but I’d like to concentrate on singles. But in Englnad,if you play singles,nobody looks at you! he quips. The youngster from Harrogate _ Britain’s No. 6 in his first year in the seniors _ decided to fly down after his coach at the High Performance Centre at Manchester,Colin Haughton recommended India for its facilities and the mentorship of Prakash Padukone. It helps that the Bangalore courts are teeming with talented players. I go to University as well. And sparring is a big problem in UK. Andrew (Smith) doesn’t train there,and Rajeev (Ouseph) and Carl (Baxter) – our top singles players tend to be away. So,it made sense to come to India, says the pharmacology student at the University of Manchester.
April saw the pull-out of two Englishmen from the India Open owing security concerns,but there’s no apprehension about shuttlers travelling to India now. The security,honestly,wasnt a concern. It didn’t even occur to me. My younger sister was travelling to Goa on vacation,so my parents were looking at it as a good experience for both of us, says the strapping shuttler,who also had an Indian-origin coach Nitin Panesar in his early years. He played football and cricket as a kid,but after showing a spark at a weekly session in badminton,got hooked to the sport.
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A former U-19 national champion,who made the semis of the Welsh and Croatian Open playing mostly in Europe,Bonsels considers India the ideal environment owing to his style of play. I like playing on the rear court,so in the Indian style of defending – I’d like to pick a few things. But I need to work on attack. I’m a counter-attacking player and I use my skill more. I don’t have the power-boom game,but I’m good at net-play, he trails off,indicating that there would be fewer places better equipped to instruct him on the wrist-work than Padukones hub.
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