Sports Exclusive News
Is the criticism of England manager Gareth Southgate fair?
(Football news) Gareth Southgate has been under immense scrutiny in this past international break. After the 3-3 draw against Germany, England have now been winless for 6 games, the first time in 29 years. But Southgate’s criticism started way before that when the squad was announced due to a couple of absentees. Ben White, Jadon Sancho and James Madison, who are in really good form were left out. On the other hand players like Kalvin Phillips, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire, who are struggling to get game time for their clubs were included. There is always going to be a selection debate on any side and even more if it is a national team like England.
Kalvin Phillips did pull out of the squad due to injury but there is a question mark whether he should have been there in the first place. The problem with the criticism is that if Southgate were to drop Phillips then who would be his replacement. James Ward Prowse, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips are the only defensive/box to box midfielders available and Southgate usually calls up all of them. Same goes for Luke Shaw as the only other left back who could get a call up is Ryan Sessegnon who hasn't proven himself at the big stage yet. Both England left backs Shaw and Ben Chilwell are not playing regular football for their club but Southgate simply doesn't have a replacement. On top of that Shaw has always performed really well for England and he also scored against Germany.
The big call is Harry Maguire who hasn't been playing regularly for Manchester United and when he does, his performances haven't been up to the mark. Maguire has always performed well for England, especially in big tournaments like the World Cup 2018 and the Euro 2022. In his own words, Maguire went into the Euros after a long term injury and still managed to get into the team of the tournament. Southgate somehow brought the criticism onto himself as he had previously said that he will always be picking a squad based on current form which is something he hasn't been doing. Players like Ben White and Chris Smalling have been performing well consistently without getting a call up while there is a debate that Fikayo Tomori, Conor Coady and Marc Guehi should be ahead of him in the pecking order but the trio haven't played a single minute in the international break.
Southgate called up not one, not two, not three but four right backs. The England manager has used Kyle Walker as a centre back while Reece James has played right back for both the games in this window. The problem is that the 3 at the back system suits Trent Alexander-Arnold as right wing back the best because he is much better at attacking than defending. Considering how much England struggled to make chances, the Liverpool full back should definitely get more chances. Selection is not the only point of concern as his tactics have also been criticised.
Southgate took England to the World Cup semi final and the Euros final but he did it with arguably the most balanced England squads of all time. He has always been defensive minded and the argument is that this team is more than capable of playing attacking football. England played their best football when being 2-0 down against Germany and had nothing to lose. Southgate doesn't have time as the World Cup is just around the corner. The former Middlesbrough manager always manages to get the best out of England in tournaments and if he does that in Qatar then he will definitely win back the fans.
Also read: Italy qualify for Nations League finals after beating Hungary
My aim is to play for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy: Aneesh K.V.
At the age of 21, right handed batsman Aneesh K.V. is aiming to make his first class debut for Karnataka State with the ultimate goal of playing for the Indian cricket team. He reached the finals of the Maharaja T20 Trophy earlier this year and also participated in the CK Nayudu Trophy. In this exclusive interview, Aneesh speaks about his favourite cricketer, experiences so far, approach towards different formats of the game, overcoming challenges and future goals.
Q1) Who was your favourite player growing up and what did you like about him?
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint one player as when I was growing up, I always used to admire different aspects of the game from different players. If I was given only one choice, I would pick Rahul sir (Rahul Dravid). The aura around him, the way he carries himself and the brand of cricket he played was very inspirational for me.
Q2) You recently reached the finals of the Maharaja T20 trophy, what was your experience like?
It was an amazing platform for youngsters like myself to showcase our talent. The tournament being televised especially on a platform like Star Sports only added to the benefits as I’m sure many people around the country and possibly the world were watching. All in all it was a tremendous experience and I learnt a lot from it.
Q 3) How is the experience of being part of the senior set up with the likes of international players such as Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey etc? What are some of the lessons that you have learnt from such International players?
It’s been a blessing in disguise for me. If you think of it, all the seniors have represented the country already and for them to be so welcoming is very encouraging. They always take their time out to answer whatever queries we have and make sure that we feel comfortable as players.
Also read: Watching Rory McIlroy makes me work harder everyday: Varun Muthappa
Q4) You are someone who has played T20s and One days, do your tactics and other things such as stance and grip change depending on the format?
Not much as I feel that a batsman who has a good technique should be able to adapt to all 3 formats of the game. For me it’s just a small change in mindset and an emphasis on game awareness as in the shorter format, game awareness becomes crucial.
Q 5) What are some of the biggest challenges in your career so far and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge or my biggest accomplishment so far was for me to believe that I can be a good 'white ball' cricketer. The moment I started believing that I could do it, I saw a few results falling my way.
Q 6) What are your future goals and ambitions? How are you planning to achieve them?
Firstly, to play for Karnataka in the Ranji trophy, thereafter hopefully for India in Test cricket. I’ve always been a huge fan of Test cricket, I believe it to be the purest form of the game and a format that I love and cherish playing the most.
Golf needs to receive more support in India: Coach Tarun Sardesai
Unlike cricket, India has yet to make its mark on the international golfing stage. The sport is often associated with privilege, luxury and skill and isn’t easily accessible to many aspiring youngsters who wish to pursue golf professionally. However, the sport is growing rapidly in the country and it appears to be only a matter of time before India begins to showcase their talent in the biggest competitions in the world and make its mark against the best.
In this exclusive interview, golf coach Tarun Sardesai speaks about his journey as a player to a coach, development of Indian golfers, overcoming challenges, helping aspiring golfers compete at the highest level, his vision for golf in India and his future goals.
Q 1) How were you first introduced to golf and what motivated you to train the next generation of Indian golfers?
I started golf in order to follow in my father's footsteps. I was hooked onto the game and being a natural sportsman I became fairly good in a short span of time. Unfortunately in those days we did not have access to great coaches and mentors and through my journey I was not able to reach a level where I could be competitive in the professional arena. My guru Mr Donato Di Ponziano advised me to take up coaching as he felt that I would be good at it. I took his advice and did my coaching certification in 2003 and the rest is history.
Q 2) According to you, what will it take for an Indian golfer to reach the level of Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods?
I think that the way golf is perceived in the country needs to change and the sport needs to receive more support. If our players are supported at the right time in their careers with access to a lot of international exposure, then it will prepare them to be able to compete with the best in the world. Unfortunately many of our talented players never get to compete much internationally due to that lack of funds and that then causes a stagnation in their performance and they are unable to compete and win on the international stage.
Q 3) What are the biggest challenges that golfers in India face in order to turn professional? How can those challenges be rectified?
The biggest challenge that our golfers face is the lack of financial support. Golf is an expensive game and for a golfer to be competitive locally and internationally, it requires a lot of investment. From travel to training to equipment a golfer is always feeling the pressure of not being able to cope with the demands. This in turn also then makes them cut corners and not have the best team working with them. It is unfortunate but this also affects the players confidence levels and they are unable to reach their potential.
Q 4) How is your academy grooming aspiring golfers to be competitive at the global stage?
One of the biggest hurdles for any young sportsperson has been the blend of education and sport. With the help of our education team Pros+E (Professional Sports and Education) which is headed by 3 visionaries Mr Mahesh Rao, Mr Sanju Nair and Mr Kishore Shanbaug, we have been able to do just that. With a schooling system that supports all our players, they are able to focus on their sport and at the same time get a very good education. Apart from that we have put together a holistic training system with Golf, Education, Nutrition, Sports Science and Sports Psychology, all available on the same campus. This way the players do not lose time travelling from home to school etc. They are able to shorten the learning curve and improve much faster.
Q 5) What do you envision to be the future of golf in India?
Golf is growing at an alarming rate and I believe that India will become a powerhouse in the sport in the coming years. Once we are able to bring in the funding from the government as well as corporations, the sky's the limit. I believe that in the future we will have players on every major tour in the world. I also believe that we will have a major champion in the next 15 years.
Q 6) What are your future goals for your golf academy and how are you working towards making those ambitions a reality?
My immediate goal for my academy is to have a corporate partner. This will help us in funding deserving players and get them the best training and facilities to go out and win Olympic Medals and Major golf championships. This year we are having our inaugural TSG Invitational Golf Tournament where we will be inviting 120 top CXOs to play and support our cause. The idea is to raise money and build a corpus to be able to make our future goals a reality.
Watching Rory McIlroy makes me work harder everyday: Varun Muthappa
Despite being just 18 years old, Indian golfer Varun Muthappa recently won four prestigious tournaments conducted at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) and the Bangalore Golf Club (BGC). In this exclusive interview, he speaks about his journey as a professional golfer, winning four golf tournaments, special achievements, influence of his coach Mr. Tarun Sardesai, looking up to Rory McIlroy, overcoming challenges and his future goals.
Q 1) When were you first introduced to golf and what motivated you to pursue it professionally?
I started playing golf when I was about four and a half years old. It was just a pastime and I come from a family of golfers. My dad, uncle and my grandfathers from both sides were golfers. I was always a decent golfer growing up and I could hit the ball well. I started getting better and golf felt like a very natural career path for me. All roads ended up leading towards golf for me so it worked out nicely.
Q 2) You recently won four golf tournaments conducted by the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) and the Bangalore Golf Club (BGC). Tell us about that experience?
Keeping form for 4 to 5 weeks is always challenging as you need to be on top of your game. I think what is important for me is staying in the present, what is done is done. I follow a process oriented procedure rather than looking at results. I just focus on the process and the rest just happens. It is a lot of work but all paid off during that time period.
Q 3) Which out of the four was the most special victory for you and why?
The Karnataka Amateur Tournament was really special as it was a two round tournament where in the first round I shot 3 over and I was one shot behind my mentor David D’Souza who is a former Indian golfer. On the second day, I stuck to my game process and shot 9 under par as I broke the course record that day. I won the tournament with 9 shots remaining, all in all it was a bittersweet victory for me.
Also read: My aim is to win the World Championship: Snooker player Varshaa Sajeev
Q 4) Tell us about the influence of your coach Mr. Tarun Sardesai on your career so far?
I have known Tarun sir since I was 7 years old but I started officially working with him 2 years ago when I joined his academy. I moved there since his academy is on the outskirts of Bangalore, I stay there 5 days a week and only come back home on the weekends. He is the reason my game has improved so much as we have improved on all the finer details like changing my swing, my workout routine, my diet etc. His entire structure brings a lot of clarity in my game as I hope to continue with Tarun sir for a long time
Q 5) Which golf player do you look up to and why?
My favourite golfer is Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland, he is currently ranked number 3 but he was world number 1 for a long time. I relate to Rory McIlroy because of the way he hits the ball. Both of us hit the ball a long way and I just love his style of play. I also love the way he presents himself on and off the court, he is really humble and down to earth. I aspire to be like that and play golf the way he plays it. To be the best in the world consistently is the dream and that's where I want to be. I can see myself doing that and Rory is a great role model to have and he has been my favourite ever since I was a little kid. Looking at his photos and some of his old videos gives me a lot of motivation when I'm lacking some. Watching him makes me want to work harder everyday.
Q 6) What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
It's definitely not an easy road. People think it's very easy to play sports as you do what you love, practice for 3 hours and then relax. It may look like that from the outside but it's not like that. You need to work every single day and it can get a little boring sometimes because you are doing the same thing day in, day out. You have to work on the finest of details which a lot of people just don't get. I think I was transitioning to my swing when I went through a really rough patch where I was shooting really high scores and I just wasn't able to get the ball where I wanted to. This was about 7-8 months ago where nothing was going my way. I called my coach to ask him what is happening and why I'm not able to perform despite working and doing what I need to do. I went back to the academy and had this insight on how to work better and ever since then I have really changed how I do things.
From shooting 9 overs, I feel that I can now shoot under par every single day which is where you want to be if you're looking to turn professional. The hardest part was to change my thinking and the way I do things. My goal is to wake up everyday and be the best. If you want to be number 1 in the world then you have to live like the world number 1. You have to behave like the best golfer in the world and do the little things that the best golfers do. I'm doing all these things and they have made a big difference in my game. I'm thinking more positively, I'm working a lot more effectively and I'm taking better care of my health.
Q 7) What are your future goals? How do you plan to accomplish them?
My goal in the world of golf is to be winning majors and to be consistently competing at the world's biggest stage like the European tour which is now the DP World Tour and the PGA tTour. I want to be able to win the majors and I think the best way to do that is to stick to your process, believe in yourself and your team. Giving into your team's expectations is also a big part of it. I'm working the hours right now, trying to improve in order to be better not just as a golfer but also as a human being. I think the smallest things will make the difference in the long run.
"Forma products brings in safety with comfort and style”: Amit Desai
With a strategy revolving around “safety with comfort and style”, Protech Sports and Safety Products develop cricket batting helmets, wicket keeping helmets, thigh guards, neck guards, chest guards and arm pads as per the global safety standards. Currently, the likes of Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Washington Sundar, Rassie van der Dussen (South Africa), Marco Jansen (South Africa) and Kieron Pollard (West Indies) use their products along with a number of cricketers from yesteryear.
In this exclusive interview, Amit Desai, Founder and Director at Forma speaks about his vision and objectives for the company, innovation and technology in the development of the products, cricketers who use Forma products, overcoming challenges, adhering to safety standards and his future goals.
Q 1) As founder and director of Forma, what motivated you to create this company and what is your vision and objectives that you would like to achieve?
Having played competitive cricket, I had a minor injury while fielding in short leg position. This prompted me to think of making something in head safety. There was only one Australian company making cricket helmets in the early 80’s, it was from Fibreglass (FG). My father had a factory manufacturing electronic equipment and he had an engineer who had told me that he used to make toys from FG. I enquired if he could teach me to make cricket helmets from FG and hence, he helped me in making a simple mould (with my pocket money) and I invested in making a few helmets in FG from this mould. There was only one famous brand in India at that time, “Sunny” owned by the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. I asked him if I could use his brand for my helmets and he was kind enough to agree. This is how I began my business, “Protech Sports and Safety Products” with its brand Forma in manufacturing cricket helmets. He also asked me to make a skull cap (Mr. Gavaskar never used a regular cricket helmet) and I happily obliged. He used this skull cap for the remainder of his batting career. This was the beginning of my business of cricket helmet manufacturing. Our vision and objective is to develop or adopt head safety equipments that would reduce injury and concussions. This can also be adopted for various other products other than just cricket helmets.
Q 2) What separates Forma from other manufacturers? What sort of innovation and technology goes into the development of the products?
Forma was the first to develop a cricket helmet from an Engineering Polymer outer shell and a high density inner liner of Expandable Polystyrene. Both these together can help withstand high levels of impact coupled with good levels of concussion reduction for modern cricketers. This process is now adopted by all other major cricket helmet brands. Our Forma helmets still can be differentiated from other brands in safety and comfort as it has the right combination of shell thickness in its outer shell and the optimum thickness and density of its inner EPS liner. Even though this does make Forma helmets a bit heavy (by approx. 40-60 gms) from its competitors, our intent of maintaining a high level of safety for our users is more important than to just aim for our helmets to be lightweight. Forma helmet has a unique comfort lining all across the inside of the helmet. This enables higher area for sweat absorption inside the helmet.
Q 3) Who are some of the cricketers that use Forma products? Which countries are Forma products being exported to?
Forma is exported to all cricket playing countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc.
Some of the key ex and current players are:
Ex Players: Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Virendar Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir
Current Players: Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Washington Sundar, Rassie van der Dussen (South Africa), Marco Jansen (South Africa), Kieron Pollard (West Indies)
Forma has also launched Rishabh Pant’s RP 17 signature collection. Our company is also OEM exclusive producer for the biggest cricketing brands in the word i.e. Gray Nicolls and Kookaburra.
Also read: My aim is to win the World Championship: Snooker player Varshaa Sajeev
Q 4) What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced, not just in the development but also in the promotion of your products? How did you overcome them?
The challenges in development are the cost of tooling and the British Standards compliance costs. The cricket helmet market, though expanding world-wide, still is no match to some of the other safety helmets like the motorcycle helmets and bicycle helmets. The promotion of the products is also through players using it, which again does not come cheap. We now also use other modern promotion techniques such as social media to promote our brand Forma.
Q 5) What are the safety standards Forma adheres to as equipment such as helmets are primarily for the safety of batters and wicket keepers.
There is one universal safety standard which is adopted by the ICC and other cricketing boards, the British Standard. It is mandatory to comply with this standard for all major tournaments today for International cricketers. Forma is an ISO 9001:2015 quality certified company. It has the widest British Standard 7928: 2013 approved cricket helmets and is also the first company to get a British Standard certification for the neck guards on cricket helmets.
Q 6) What are your future goals for Forma? How do you plan to accomplish them?
We are investing into adaptation of new technologies available in head safety around the world, which will help us develop helmets which provide a higher level of head safety compared to the current helmets which are available across the world. We have already signed an agreement with a US based company for this, and in early 2023 we will have cricket helmets using this technology. Our tagline is “Safety with comfort and style” which is something that we truly believe in.
My aim is to win the World Championship: Snooker player Varshaa Sajeev
Indian snooker player Varshaa Sanjeev has accomplished numerous accolades both domestically and abroad. She is also the World Record holder of 72 break in 6-red Snooker Format which she accomplished in 2020 and is now setting her sights on the Surge Sport All India Snooker Invitational Championship 2022 (1st edition) at the NSCI Club in Mumbai from the 3rd to 7th September.
In this exclusive interview, Varshaa Sanjeev shares details about her journey as a snooker player, the influence of her coach Mr. Yasin Merchant, breaking the world record, special achievements so far, overcoming challenges and her future goals.
Q 1) When were you first introduced to snooker? What motivated you to pursue it professionally?
I was introduced to the sport at the age of 12 as I happened to see it on TV. Before this I tried a lot of sports but snooker really caught my interest so that's when I joined a summer camp where I liked the process and feel of the sport.
Q 2) How much of an impact has your coach Mr. Yasin Merchant been in your career so far?
He has made a massive impact in my life as I have been training with him for the past 8 months. He has upped my game to an advanced level as he constantly motivated me to do better and told me to never look back at the failures, instead to learn from them.
Q 3) Tell us about your experience in making the world record in 2020 of 72 break in 6-red snooker format?
I never thought that I would be breaking the record in the first place. It was an early match against my close friend as I started off the match with a bang and I was on course to break the record. In my head I was very calm and collected as I went to break the record quite comfortably. Overall it was a good process and I was really happy with the record.
Also read: I want to change the existing situation of taekwondo in India: Atul Raghav
Q 4) You have a number of accomplishments both domestically and internationally. Which one stands out as the most special for you and why?
The most special one would be my under-21 World Championship where I won the gold in the U.K. I actually started off in the senior events but didn't do very well in that category. That did not put me down and once I started the junior category, I got that momentum going with every game that I played. I managed to stay calm and collected, eventually winning the world title. The 2nd most special would be the senior national title that I won in 2019. I beat all the top players right from the beginning. In the quarter finals I faced the former national champion Amee Kamani and another former national champion Vidya Pillai in the semi finals. It was a very tough tournament to win and it was a really important win for me.
Q 5) What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a snooker player? How did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges is to try and get sponsors. To play any kind of billiards and snooker tournaments you need quite a lot of investment. To play the World Championship we get funded by the government but we have to take care of ourselves for other events. That's been quite a challenge to put in our own money and travel the globe. That is still a pretty big challenge that I haven't found a solution to. I have been trying to meet a lot of I.T and management companies to get sponsorship from their side but I haven't been able to do that. It is quite a slow process and eventually I'm hoping that it could happen.
Q 6) What are your future goals and how are you working towards accomplishing them?
My current goal is to win the World Championship that's going to happen in November. Another goal is to turn professional very soon as I don't want to play at the amateur level. Turning pro would actually be a dream come true. There are many events coming up and I want to turn professional as soon as possible.
I want to change the existing situation of taekwondo in India: Atul Raghav
Atul Raghav is a taekwondo athlete who represented India and won the bronze medal in G-2 Fujairah Dubai tournament in 2020. He is the youngest taekwondo athlete from Ghaziabad district and rose to fame due to his excellent medal accolades. In this exclusive interview he speaks about his taekwondo journey, his experience at the G2 Fujairah tournament, training regimes and his future goals
Q1)Tell us about your Taekwondo journey and what made you take it up professionally?
I started my journey in 2016 as a professional Taekwondo athlete by playing at school level and then moving ahead at a bigger level by winning medals. Martial arts was my interest since childhood and I started enjoying the process of learning this art.
Q 2) How was your experience representing India in the G2 Fujairah Dubai 2020?
Representing India at any platform internationally is always a proud moment for each one us. My experience was much more than I could describe. The level of exposure, the level playing field I got there is immensely unremarkable. I got to learn so many things, whether it’s training or the mindset of international athletes. I was new to the PSS system, I did not know the level of the G2 championships at my early age. I came to know when I reached there that 1500 top athletes and Olympians were competing with each other.
Q 3) What are some of the challenges that you faced in life and how did you overcome them?
The only challenge I faced as an athlete/ referee/ sports mentor is the federation dispute and government support. The only thing which is lacking taekwondo behind any other sport is the federation disputes and no support from the government.
Also read: I want to represent India at the Olympics: Taekwondo athlete Lucky Rathee
Q 4) Do you have any Taekwondo idols that you have been inspired by? If yes, how did they inspire you?
I do not have any idol in my life but the person whose fight I used to watch and imitate is Ahmad Abu Ghosh.
Q 5) How do you normally prepare yourself before the tournament? Does mental strength play a part in Taekwondo?
I generally followed a simple schedule before any of my championships. *DIET- I do not follow my diet pattern 365 days because I believe, one should listen to their inner conscience, eat what your body demands or craves for. Nobody else may work for you but at least your body and intelligence must work for you and in order to keep them working effectively, one should listen to their body. I was following the same principle but at the same time I ensured that I’ll practise and exercise daily to maintain my body weight for the next 365 days. But at least 3 weeks before the tournament, I maintain a strict diet to get proper nutrition and value I need.
* Body Conditioning- A combination of strength and muscle endurance training, along with cardio, will keep you in fighting shape. All of these aspects of training work towards getting your stamina and power competition ready. To prevent injury and improve your range of movement, flexibility training should never be ignored and be added to every competition training programme.
* Training- Both drills and sparring are a fundamental part of training. Sparring practise is must to get an idea and experiment new techniques.
* Rest - When I was at my peak performance time frame, I used to strain a lot on my body before any competition due to the energy drive and the vision I had and it costed me heavily. You’ve made the time and effort to condition your body with training and diet. All the hard work to prepare yourself is done. Now is my opportunity to shine and deliver my best performance. To get the most out of my preparation, my body needs rest. The last thing you want before a competition is to be burnt out or injured. And yes, mental strength plays a very significant role in the life of a martial artist. Winning or losing is not in our hands but adopting a positive attitude and moving forward will help you grow as a martial artist, no matter the result and always strive for a medal, the hunger should be there within you.
Q 6) What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
I'm a very ambitious person. I believe, life is very uncertain and unpredictable about the future but the only goal at present I have is to change the existing situation of taekwondo and promote it through my image. For me, anyone who is wearing a blue jersey and plays for India is the same regardless of any sport. I want to break some of the myths that society have for this sport and stop the discrimination any athlete faces.
I want to represent India at the Olympics: Taekwondo athlete Lucky Rathee
Representing the Indian Taekwondo team, Lucky Rathee was one of the seven athletes who secured gold at the Israel Open 2022 Taekwondo Championship. In this exclusive interview, he speaks about his journey in the sport, experiences so far, overcoming challenges, Taekwondo idols and future goals.
Q 1) Tell us about your Taekwondo journey, how were you introduced to the sport and what made you take it up professionally?
I started Taekwondo at school. My brother was a Taekwondo athlete and I started the sport after watching him.
Q 2) How was your experience at the Israel Open 2022 Taekwondo Championship?
I had a very good experience in Israel and my performance was better than I thought. My confidence rose when I started winning fights.
Q 3) What are the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
I haven't faced many challenges in my career. My coach Harish Tokas is such a nice person and also very supportive but I faced financial issues as I come from a middle class family.
Also read: Mental strength is very important in professional rugby: Ramneek Kaur
Q 4) Who are some of your Taekwondo idols that you have been inspired by?
My Taekwondo idol is Shaurya Partap Rathee, he is my elder brother. He is the biggest inspiration to me.
Q 5) What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Just like every athlete, my goal is to reach the Olympics. I am training to become an Olympian in the Tokas Taekwondo Academy. I will also go to international camps for training with Olympians in the future.
Mental strength is very important in professional rugby: Ramneek Kaur
Hailing from Punjab, 25 year old Ramneek Kaur is a professional rugby player who plays as a forward. She has played at the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy and is now setting her sights on winning a medal in Division 1 as well as representing India at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. In this exclusive interview, she speaks about her journey and experiences, overcoming challenges, importance of mental strength, advice to other girls and her future goals.
Q 1) Tell us about your journey as a professional rugby player and how were you introduced to the sport?
I started to play rugby in 2017 and before that I was a national medalist kabaddi player. In kabaddi there is a sort of political system and I was selected for the national camp but for some reason I wasn't sent there. My coach Siddharth Kashmir Singh suggested that I try rugby because it was a new sport in Punjab.
Q 2) What was your experience at the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy? What did you learn from it?
It was an amazing experience that taught me a lot of things. As I mentioned before, rugby has been relevant in Punjab for just 5-6 years now. I have already learned a lot playing for different teams and different competitions and the future is going to be very bright for rugby in Punjab.
Q 3) What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a rugby athlete in India? How did you overcome them?
Rugby has a lot of competition as girls from all over India come to play. Every player has their own set of qualities and fitness levels. My competition is with me to keep up with my fitness and give my best so that I can make a place for myself in the team.
Also read: We want to become Asia’s top team by 2024: Rugby player Shikha Yadav
Q 4) Apart from physical strength, how important is mental strength to become a successful rugby player?
I think it is a very physical sport where strength and agility is required but then again mental strength also plays an important part in the sport. When you fall down or get tired a different mentality sets in as you are representing your country at the biggest stage. The mental aspect in the sport of rugby becomes very important.
Q 5) What is your advice to girls who want to take up rugby professionally?
Rugby is a beautiful sport and Rugby India has a future plan for these up and coming young rugby players. My message to all the young girls is that it is a fun sport although it looks dangerous and a lot could be achieved professionally.
Q 6) What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Rugby India has a game plan to take us to Division 1 and hopefully win a medal there. The long term goal is to qualify for the Olympics in 2028. We as individuals will need to give our best to achieve this dream.
We want to become Asia’s top team by 2024: Rugby player Shikha Yadav
At the age of 23, Shikha Yadav has been playing rugby since 2017 and has participated in the Asian Championship 15 a side and the Asian Sevens Trophy, winning the silver medal. The forward is hoping for the team to get promoted to Asia Division 1 and participate in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. In this exclusive interview, Shikha Yadav speaks about her journey in the sport, experiences at major tournaments, important attributes of a forward player, overcoming challenges, future goals and more!
Q 1) You have been playing rugby since 2017, please tell us about your journey and who introduced you to the sport?
Before rugby I was into athletics, volleyball and I even trained professionally in javelin throw. I used to play all sports but in the 12th standard, my friend introduced me to rugby. Considering that I’m strong and athletic, rugby was the perfect sport for me. Pankaj Dagar, who is my friend, told me to join the Delhi Hurricane rugby team.
Q 2) Tell us about your experiences at the Asian Championship 15’s a side and the Asian Sevens Trophy? What did you learn from those events?
My debut was in 2019, just two years after I started playing the sport. Both the experiences were different as in the 15’s there are fifteen players per team on the field compared to the 7’s trophy where they had a total of 14 players on the rugby field (7 each side). In 2019 and 2022 I played in the Asian Sevens Trophy, in 2019 our team was good but quite inexperienced as we took this confidence into the 2022 tournament. Although we lost the 2022 Asian Sevens trophy final to Singapore we took a lot of positives out of the tournament.
Q 3) As a rugby player who plays in the forward position, what are the most important attributes that are required for a player in your position?
In rugby if you are a forward then you need to be fast, agile and strong. You need to be smart when tackling as a forwards job is to take the team forward with some fluidity.
Also read: Everything that I have done in rugby is to represent India: Shahnawaz
Q 4) What are some of the biggest challenges in your rugby career and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges that I faced was in 2021 when Covid had eased out a little bit and the restrictions had been lifted to a certain extent. We had a training session at the Delhi Hurricanes Club which was our first training after lockdown. In that session I broke the metatarsal joint of my left index finger. When I went to treat the injury it took a very long time and before surgery I had to take a Covid Test which came back as positive. I was asymptomatic but they said that the surgery cannot be performed before I recover from Covid. It was very frustrating because they didn't tell me earlier and I had been in direct contact with my friends and family.
Covid wasn't that big a problem; the problem was that my joint was still dislocated and it took 1 month to just get the surgery done because the restrictions had started to come back. When we went to do the surgery in a private hospital they told me that they joint will stay stiff and we cannot guarantee that the finger will move properly after surgery. In any sport grip is very important and that incident took a toll on me because it wasn't a big injury to start with and because of Covid things got messed up. Then it was announced that the India camp would start in a month and the doctor had told me that it would take two months to recover from the surgery. Despite the injury I continued to work out at home and even though the doctor said it would take two months, I was back on the field after 15-20 days. I made myself psychologically strong because I wanted to play and I didn't want to give up.
Q 5) What is your message to all the girls who wish to take up rugby professionally in the future?
Whichever field you are in, just be consistent. rugby is a growing sport in India and Rugby India needs more people to be interested in the sport. The thing about rugby is that it is a team game and it teaches you to survive with others. It teaches you lessons of living in a society. Rugby teaches you a lot about life and it teaches you to never lose hope.
Q 6) What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Currently we play in Asia Division 2 and we want to get promoted to Asia Division 1. It is the goal of all of us and the federation that we have become the top team in Asia by 2024 and we have to participate in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. We have a very tight training schedule and I'm just trying to be consistent with it. I'm taking care of my body because I want to play for at least 6 more years. I'm very focused on staying mentally and physically stable to achieve long term goals.
Representing India at the Asian Badminton Championship was special: Varun Kapur
Currently training at the Nikhil Kanetkar Academy in Balewadi, Varun Kapur is regarded as one of the top badminton prospects in India. He was ranked 1 in the BWF Junior Rankings (March 2021), winning the Uganda International series in 2021, the Lithuanian Juniors in August 2019 and Li Ning Cyprus Juniors & Valmar Juniors in April 2019. He has played a total of 75 matches with a win percentage of 78% and has received a Golden Visa from the Dubai Sports Council.
In this exclusive interview, Varun Kapur speaks about his badminton journey, moving to Pune for his professional career, experience at the Nikhil Kanetkar Academy, special achievements, overcoming challenges and his future goals.
Q 1) When were you first introduced to badminton and what made you pursue it professionally?
I started playing badminton back in Kolkata when I was six, but that was only for fun. My coaches said that I was playing well, but there was no infrastructure there (Kolkata) to develop as a badminton player so I decided to move to Pune. I had been here before for summer camps and that helped me make my decision.
Q 2) How difficult was it to shift to Pune at the age of 11 to become a professional badminton player?
Born and brought up in Kolkata, it was due to the love for the sport that I decided to move to Pune. Leaving my family and coming to seek new pastures in the city with my mother was a hard thing to do for an 11-year-old.
Q 3) How has your experience been at the Nikhil Kanetkar Academy in Balewadi?
My coach Nikhil Kanetkar built my confidence, instilled courage and made me work harder, which I am glad about. I have excellent relations with Nikhil Sir and all the coaches in the academy.
Q 4) You have won a number of tournaments such as Uganda International series 2021, Lithuanian Juniors, Aug 2019 and Li Ning Cyprus Juniors & Valmar Juniors, April 2019. What has been the most special achievement in your career so far and why?
Two moments are very special to me : First one was being selected to represent India in the Asian Badminton Championship and the second was becoming Junior World Number 2 at the start of 2021. I am also honoured to have received the Golden Visa and would like to thank the Dubai Sports Council.
Q 5) What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was to play an international tournament right after my boards. It actually worked out in my favor and was a great confidence boost
Q 6) What are some of your future goals and aspirations? How are you working towards achieving them?
Representing my country in the Olympic Games. I am training and working towards achieving this goal by practicing each day.
My dream is to win the British Junior Open: Squash player Yuvraj Wadhwani
Ranked 4th in the Boys U17 Category, squash player Yuvraj Wadhwani is the winner of the Asian Junior Squash Championships (U13) 2018, becoming only the second Indian to win the prestigious tournament. He was inducted into the Virat Kohli Foundation in 2019 and finished third at the British Junior Open World Championships Birmingham BU13.
In this exclusive interview, Yuvraj Wadhwani speaks about his journey as a professional squash player, experience at the German and Dutch Open, biggest inspirations in his career, importance of mental strength and his future goals.
Q 1) When did you first start playing squash? What about the sport caught your attention and motivated you to pursue it professionally?
I started playing squash at the age of 7. Prior to that I swam at the district level and won many medals in swimming. My keystroke was the butterfly stroke. I also played chess at a district and state level till the age of 8 before making squash my primary sport. I started playing squash with my dad for fun and joined the squash academy at Khar Gymkhana during my summer vacation. I enjoyed it a lot as it involved a lot of interaction with other players and even uncles who sweetly played with me there. But as school timings did not allow me to pursue all 3 sports I had to choose. I chose squash as it was fun, energetic and like playing physical chess. Also, the fact that I always had an excellent hand eye coordination from a young age probably helped me in squash.
Q 2) You finished 4th and 6th in the German and Dutch Open. How was the experience and what did you learn from it?
I love the feeling of representing India. It makes you feel proud and on top of the world. You learn a lot about your own game especially when you play the best of the best in the world. There is a learning curve involved and it pushes you to work harder. Unfortunately, my 10th Standard board exams were over just a month before these 2 tournaments, not giving me the adequate time required to train for them. Though I did train during my exams I wasn’t able to put in the kind of hours I would have liked. Despite that I would say that the results were great. I also secured a 97.8 % in my ICSE board exams.
Q 3) Who have been the biggest inspirations in your career so far and why?
One of my biggest inspirations is Mr. Virat Kohli. Nothing was handed to him easily. He has earned everything from pure dedication, hard work and passion. Few things I love about him are his never give up attitude, always putting his best foot forward and his hunger to succeed.
Also read: Everything that I have done in rugby is to represent India: Shahnawaz
Q 4) What is your training regime before a big event? How important is mental strength to succeed as a professional squash player?
A lot of preparation goes in before an event. One needs to start fitness training & technique correction months prior to the event and then step up to match practice just prior. Mental fitness plays a huge part in the game. Especially when it’s a 3-2 game and you are at 10 all in the 5th set. It's all about grit and nerves. My current coach Ritwik Bhattacharya is a great mentor and pushes you to do your best. I also have a great team of coaches, my parents and my Nani (my biggest fan) backing me who help me with the support I need.
Q 5) You’re currently in the top 5 in the U17 category. Would you say it’s the biggest achievement of your career? If not, which accomplishment do you consider the most special and why?
My most special accomplishment was when I was chosen to represent India in the Boys Under 13 category in the No. 1 position. I was only 11 and the youngest player to represent India in Asian Junior Individual Championships that year. My Asian Junior Gold & Silver medal along with my 4 Junior National titles are extremely dear to me and I hope to win them again. My biggest dream in the junior category is to win the British Junior Open one day.
Q 6) What are your future goals as a squash player? How do you plan to achieve them?
If wishes would come true then in the short term I do hope to win a British Junior title, an Asian Junior and a Junior National title. This will involve a lot of teamwork, hard work and dedication. I will need to work on my fitness, my game, my strength, and mental conditioning all in 1. I must thank my school, Bombay Scottish School, Mahim who have extended help in all possible ways to help me achieve my goals. My coach Ritwik Bhattacharya and his team, coach Avinash Bhavnani, the Indian squash federation, my clubs, and everyone who contributed towards my success. In the long term, I do hope to represent India in the Asian and Commonwealth games and win a PSA title.
Everything that I have done in rugby is to represent India: Shahnawaz
Hailing from Bhubaneswar, Shahnawaz (Sonu) has been playing rugby since 2015. The 26 year old has represented Odisha and aims to not just win accolades for the country but also promote the sport of rugby. In this exclusive interview, Shahnawaz speaks about his journey as a professional rugby player, his idols growing up, playing the nationals for Odisha, importance of mental strength, overcoming challenges, special achievements and future goals.
Q 1) Hailing from Bhubaneswar, when were you first introduced to rugby and what motivated you to take it up professionally?
I was introduced to rugby in school by my coach who encouraged me to participate in the trials. I was selected for the Club Sevens first and I was a bit wary of the sport since there is a lot of body contact but that’s how I was introduced to rugby.
Q 2) Who were some of your rugby idols while growing up?
I was not aware of foreign players who played rugby while I was growing up but I looked up to my coach Manoj Kumar and a player called Piyush Khatri. I wanted to be like both of them.
Q 3) How was the experience of playing the nationals for Odisha?
I started playing nationals in 2015 and my selection was unexpected as there were many people who had been playing rugby for much longer than I was and worked harder than me. Initially, I couldn’t believe that I was selected but the coach reassured me that I was indeed selected for the nationals.
Q 4) How important is mental strength to become a professional rugby player?
The game is played mentally and how strong you are will determine how high you will climb in rugby. Since rugby is a contact sport, injuries are inevitable and being prepared mentally to deal with such situations is very important. It’s important to ignore the naysayers and keep your eye on the goal.
Also read: I want to promote the sport of rugby in Mizoram: Sangzuala Zosanguala
Q 4) What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
There have been many challenges. A rugby player needs supplements to build their physique and travelling to locations requires money. There wasn’t enough support we had to finance our own careers. It’s hard to mention the hardships that I have faced in my journey simply because there are so many.
Q 5) What is your most special achievement in your rugby career and why?
In 2021, we reached third in the nationals which was a very special achievement for me. Now that I’m representing India, getting the jersey was very memorable because everything that I have done in my career has been to represent my country.
Q 6) What are your goals in the future? How are you working towards achieving them?
India is a cricket crazy country while rugby is relatively unknown. I want rugby to get more recognition and development of the sport is very important. I also want to win gold at the upcoming tournament that I’m participating in so that people come to know that the Indian rugby team is capable of achieving medals at the highest level.
I want to promote the sport of rugby in Mizoram: Sangzuala Zosanguala
At the age of 28, Sangzuala Zosanguala (a.k.a Zuala) has been playing professional rugby since 2016. He finished fifth at the Asian Sevens Trophy Tournament in Indonesia and won the silver medal in the National Games in 2019. With an aim to promote rugby in Mizoram, Zuala is working hard to prepare himself for upcoming tournaments and aims to serve as an inspiration for future generations.
In this exclusive interview, Zuala speaks about being introduced to the sport, his achievements so far, experience at the Asian Sevens Trophy Tournament, promoting the sport in Mizoram, overcoming challenges and his future goals.
Q 1) Hailing from Mizoram, a state not known for rugby, how were you first introduced to the sport? What motivated you to pursue it professionally?
I was first asked to play Rugby in the army and I really enjoyed the game instantly. It was the army who introduced me to this sport.
Q 2) You have been playing rugby professionally since 2016, how has the experience been so far and what is your most special achievement?
Till now the biggest achievement would be winning the Silver medal in the National Games 2019.
Q 3) Tell us about your experience at the Asian Sevens Trophy Tournament in Indonesia where the team finished fifth.
It was my first international tournament and I was a little nervous to be honest as I had very little experience. Playing that tournament was a great experience as I got to learn a lot of things. Playing with the senior players for the country was a really special feeling.
Also read: My goal is to take the Indian rugby team to a higher level: Surinder Singh
Q 4) As an experienced rugby player, how do you want to promote the sport in Mizoram?
I want to promote rugby in Mizoram but to make that happen, I need to speak to Rahul Bose (the President of the Indian Rugby Federation) because I am in the Army and I cannot promote the sport on my own.
Q 5) What are the challenges you have faced in your professional rugby career? How did you overcome them?
When I was in the Army team there was too much competition for a single position. Out of the 50 players only 12 were to be selected and the position I wanted already had an experienced veteran who was already in the Indian team but ultimately with my hard work and dedication I got a place in the Indian National Rugby team.
Q 6) What are your future goals? How are you working to achieve them?
The future goal right now is to put in my best performance in the upcoming tournaments. I plan to achieve this by showing regular consistency in my game and improving my weaknesses.
My goal is to take the Indian rugby team to a higher level: Surinder Singh
As one of the senior players in the Indian rugby team, 36 year old Surinder Singh has represented the country at the highest level, playing in the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Hailing from Punjab, he enjoys playing other sports such as volleyball and basketball but remains focused on his one true love: rugby. The player is also using his invaluable experience to groom the younger generation into future rugby stars and ensure that the sport remains in safe hands going forward.
In this exclusive interview, Surinder Singh speaks about his journey as a professional rugby player, his experiences at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, love for volleyball and basketball, guiding younger players to have successful careers, overcoming challenges and his future goals.
Q 1) You began playing rugby in 2005, who introduced you to the sport and what made you take it up professionally?
A rugby team was formed in the army in 2003, so when I joined the army in 2005 they were recruiting new guys and I got selected due to my height and physique. After going through a fitness test, we started training and since then I have been playing for the army. As my performances kept improving over the years, I got the opportunity to play for India and it's been a great journey.
Q 2) Tell us about your experience in representing India at the Commonwealth and Asian Games?
It was an incredible experience for me, both the Commonwealth and Asian Games were great tournaments for us. Before the Commonwealth Games we had a foreign exposure tour where we learnt a lot of things.
Q3) Apart from rugby, you also play volleyball and basketball. What do you enjoy about them?
My absolute favourite is rugby and nothing else comes close. I really love playing rugby and I never want to stop playing. Now I am playing for the Indian team but I don't know how many more years I will play. Maybe 2 or 4 even though 4 seems way too much.
Also read: My aim is to coach rugby to future generations: Indian rugby player Akash Balmiki
Q 4) As a senior Indian rugby player, how do you guide the younger players to have a successful career?
I want to share all the knowledge that I have gained about rugby with the younger generation. Even nowadays when a youngster is in the India squad, they tend to ask a lot of questions, which I happily oblige so that not only he can improve his game but also give him advice for the future.
Q 5) What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey as a professional rugby player? How did you overcome them?
There have been a lot of challenges in my career as it takes a certain level of consistency to play for the Indian national rugby team. To get into the Indian team you need hours of dedication and sole focus on your objective to become a better player. My father was also a sportsman for the army as he used to play different sports like Hammer throw and Discus throw. You can say he was my biggest inspiration to take up rugby as a profession.
Q 6) What are your future goals and aspirations? How do you plan to achieve them?
My first main objective currently is to take my army team forward and I want to bring back the glory days for them. My ultimate goal is to take the Indian national rugby team to a higher pedestal.