Hard work and perseverance the key to success for Anmol Kharb and Chirag Sen

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Anmol Kharb, all of 16 years of age, was on the verge of reaching her first final of the 85th Senior National badminton championships at the Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium in Guwahati recently.

Leading 20-17 in the second game after pocketing the first against Ashmita Chaliha of Petroleum, the tournament’s second seed, Anmol was cruising along merrily.

In a sudden comeback, Asmita (24), one of the most talented players tipped to do well for India at the International level in the years to come, saved two match points.

At 20-19, the way Anmol played showed her true character. She didn’t crumble under pressure or make an unforced error in the wake of a fightback from a senior pro ranked higher than her in both domestic and International levels.

Anmol retrieved a tough drop from Ashmita and soon dominated the rally pushing the second seed to both corners of the court. And when she finished the match pushing a backhand from frontcourt to the right extreme of Ashmita, who was just a mere spectator, it signalled the arrival a player of high calibre, and one who has immense potential to achieve bigger things.

ALSO READ: National Badminton | Anmol emulates Saina; Chirag outlasts Tharun

“What Anmol has achieved (she then went on to beat 15-year-old Tanvi Sharma of Punjab in the final after the latter retired in the third game citing a sprain in the right thigh) is because of the sacrifices of her parents, father Devender Singh and mother Rajbala Kharb, and her hard-work. We at Sunrise Shuttlers Academy, Noida worked on her game and fitness. We improved her returns from the front. Though she did return well from backcourt, it was her returns from frontcourt that gave her some problems. We have sorted it out,” said Kusumm Singh, Anmol’s coach to The Hindu.

THE GIST

Anmol started off her journey roller skating, taking part in National level tournaments in the u-7 age category. But injuries forced her parents to shift her to badminton

The class 11 student is pursuing legal studies and her father is keen on her becoming a lawyer

For 25-year-old Chirag Sen being perennially compared to younger brother Lakshya Sen hasn’t helped matters

Apart from footballer Christiano Ronaldo, Chirag’s inspiration is Lakshya

Kusumm saw similarities in Anmol and Saina Nehwal, who happens to be the former’s idol. “Both are from Haryana and have the same fighting spirit and the hunger to excel. Anmol, I am sure, will become a star in the future. I cannot explain how happy I am to see her win the senior national crown,” said an elated Kusumm.

The 16-year-old Haryanvi certainly seems destined for glory. Anmol is ranked No. 1 in both u-17 and u-19 in singles. While she emerged the u-17 Nseational champion in Hyderabad this year she came second in the u-19 Nationals in Bengaluru.

The victory in Guwahati, believes Kusumm who has been training her ward for two years, is the first step towards bigger goals.

On Tanvi retiring in the third game in the women’s summit clash, Anmol said: “If she had played, it would have better. We have played lots of tournaments against each other, mostly in the final. This year alone we have played in final of more than seven tournaments. I am happy to be the Senior National champion. I wanted to thank my coach Kusumm Singh, who unfortunately couldn’t be in Guwahati.”

Anmol’s started off her journey roller skating, taking part in National level tournaments in the u-7 age category. But injuries forced her parents to shift her to badminton.

“I was into roller skating. I took up badminton when I was nine years old. I competed in National roller skating championships three times. I had lots of falls. My parents thought it would be better putting me in an indoor sport,” said Anmol.

A Std. XI student, Anmol is pursuing legal studies and her father is keen on her becoming a lawyer. “Of course, my first priority is to become a top badminton player. Delhi Public School 19 has supported me really well,” she said.

Anmol will be focussing on the senior section in the year 2024. “From next year, I will focus on the International Circuit in seniors, like the Challengers and the Series. My long-term target is a gold in Olympics,” said Anmol, whose next important assignment is the World junior championships in 2024 in Nanjang, China.

Being a huge fan of Saina, Anmol said she is proud that she was able to emulate her idol by winning the Senior Nationals at 16 years of age. “Saina has inspired me. She’s also from Haryana like me. She is one of the youngest to win the Senior Nationals [in 2006-07]. I am walking in her footsteps. Like Saina, I am aggressive and have an attacking mindset,” said Anmol.

Chirag Sen.

Chirag Sen.
| Photo Credit:
RITU RAJ KONWAR

Uphill struggle

For 25-year-old Chirag Sen, the new National men’s singles champion in Guwahati, it’s been an uphill struggle like many of the players in the domestic circuit, and also being perennially compared to his more illustrious younger brother Lakshya Sen, hasn’t helped matters either.

When he came to the Senior Nationals in Guwahati, he was not in the top 30 of the BAI National rankings as he was injured and therefore had played in very few domestic tournaments.

Chirag had to play seven rounds in a draw of 128 and with the courts playing slower, it became difficult for a player like Chirag, who prefers to attack more. But he believed in himself and stayed on course. “The draw was certainly tough for me. Most of them in my half were good rally players and the slow conditions were certainly not in my favour. Beating the third seed Kartikey Gulshan Kumar in the second round was the turning point for Chirag.

“He (Kartikey) is good in rallies and playing against him in such slow conditions was not easy. It was suitable for him. I struggled in the first game, the remaining two were close games. I am happy that I was able to win such matches. I didn’t have any expectations from the tournament. I entered the court just to play well and was focused on one match at a time,” he said.

For a major part of his life, Chirag has been with Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru and it has shaped his attitude to life and overall game. “I joined PBA when I was playing in the u-13 section. At PBA you get good exposure as you play with different kinds of players and it is one of the best acadamies in India for singles,” he revealed.

Chirag’s world rankings have fluctuated from being outside top 100 and in the top 100. “In the past six months my world rankings have touched 149 before I slowly worked up to 97,” said Chirag, whose short-term goal is to enter top 50 by the end of 2024.

Chirag is supported by his father D.K. Sen, a famous coach and his brother Lakshya Sen. Chirag shares a warm relationship with his brother. And it was evident after he won the singles crown in the Senior Nationals after beating M. Tharun of Telangana, the fourth seed, in the men’s final.

“Off court, we don’t talk much about badminton. We do it only when it is required. We are together when we go for movies, for dinner.”

Apart from footballer Christiano Ronaldo, Chirag’s inspiration is Lakshya. “I like the way he plays and conducts himself on court,” said Chirag.

For Anmol and Chirag, there are a multitude of challenges. The triumph at the Senior Nationals has certainly come at the right time to face the future with a measure of confidence

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