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'My focus is on giving my best and making India proud': Isharani ahead of Uber Cup

Isharani Baruah, who won National Games gold with Assam in 2023, will represent India in the singles matches at the Uber Cup, starting on April 27.

My focus is on giving my best and making India proud: Isharani ahead of Uber Cup

Isharani Baruah posing for a photograph after winning the Sri Lanka International Challenge women's singles title. 


Parashar Kalita

Updated: 22 April 2024 7:46 AM GMT

Guwahati: As the Indian women's badminton team prepares for the Uber Cup 2024, scheduled for April 27-May 5 in Chengdu, China, 20-year-old Isharani Baruah is leaving no stone unturned to make a mark at the world women's team championship.

Isharani, who hails from Dibrugarh, Assam, knows she will have her chances to showcase her game as India's senior players, including PV Sindhu, pulled out of the Uber Cup.

The Assamese shuttler is currently training at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru along with her teammate Ashmita Chaliha. Together they won the gold medal in the team event for Assam in the National Games in Goa last year.

“Winning the gold medal at the National Games for my state stands as my biggest achievement to date. This tournament, a high-level competition, has provided me with vital experience,” Isharani told The Bridge.

In the final, Assam blanked the Maharashtra women's team 3-0.

Isharani, who made a semifinal finish at the 85th Senior National badminton championships last year, will be competing in the singles matches.

“It's a team competition, our strategy will be decided when we assemble as other players are training in their respective academies. As an individual, my main focus is to give my best on the court and make the nation proud,” said Isharani.

For Isharani, 24-year-old left-handed player Ashmita is an idol. Now they train together at the same academy, helping each other finish their game

"When I was 15, I saw Ashmita playing in an all India level tournament. I liked the way she played. Since then she became my idol and inspiration. I grew up watching her, and now she and I practice together. She is a constant guide to me. Whenever I make a mistake or feel confused, she corrects me and helps me, and we both try to support each other," remarked Isharani.

Isharani and Ashmita during a doubles match at the National Games in Goa in 2023.

Now, as she trains at the PPBA, she is keeping a close eye on legendary PV Sindhu, who started training at the academy this year, to improve her game.

“I watched Saina Nehwal from a distance but never met her. PV Sindhu is from our academy; she is a very hardworking and mentally strong. We get the chance to practice with her. Her dedication and mindset motivate us. Also, my coaches, Bimal sir, and Rana sir, advise us to look at her as an inspiration," she added.

Badminton as a career

It was in 2012 when Saina won the bronze medal at the London Olympics, the then-eight-year-old Isharani developed an interest in badminton. And her passion for the game remained.

“I have been interested in sports since my childhood. I participated in various games such as running and kabaddi. When I watched Saina Nehwal winning the Olympic medal that sparked my interest in badminton, and my parents took me to Nurul Hussain sir for badminton training at the DDSA," said Isharani.

Akhtar Hussain, known popularly as Narul sir in Dibrugarh District, is the senior coach in the area.

“I trained two sons of Dr Tridip Chetia, Ayan and Angad Borchetia, both of whom have played internationally under my training. One day, Dr Tridip Chetia advised me to take a little girl named Isharani under my bwing. He told me that she has the potential and will surely yield results. With her dedication and yearning for acquring knowledge, she emerged as a good player," said the coach.

Under coach Nurul, Isharani made waves across the age group competitions.

Struggle for sponsorship

Though Isharani has a promising career, it is a struggle for her to arrange sponsorships. Her father Muleswar Baruah is an LIC agent in Dibrugarh.

“We didn't have much knowledge or information about sports. In my opinion, badminton seems to be one of the costliest games of all. When I was in college, I played it, and a racket hardly cost around 40 to 50 rupees. Once one of my friends bought a badminton racket for Rs 4,000 which surprised me. Nowadays, if a racket breaks, it costs around Rs 12,000 and regular maintenance is also required, which is very costly," said Muleswar.

“People usually think that nowadays, sportspeople receive a lot of money., When Isharani's news was published in the newspaper, people assumed she received a large amount of money. When we clarified that she didn't receive anything substantial, they questioned why we invested money. We never imagined that badminton could be such a costly game," the father added.

“We received one lakh rupees once from the Director of Sports from Assam, and BCPL helped us with two lakh rupees. For that the former DC of Dibrugarh, Biswajit Pegu, IAS, sir helped us a lot. Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy also assists her; they exempted her from the monthly fees of twenty thousand rupees," Muleswar said.

"I am a scholar-athlete of Oil India Limited, but I don't have personal sponsorship. As I enter my second year as a senior badminton player, I'll need to compete in more international tournaments. For that, if I got a sponsorship, that could help me for sure," said Isharani.

After winning the gold medal at the National Games, Isharani got a job offer, but she remained focused on badminton and did not accept the job offer.

In 2023, Isharani won the India International Challenge and also became the champion of the Srilanka International Challenge. This year, she won the Dutch International Challenge and was the runner-up at the Kazakhstan International Challenge.

While Uber Cup will be her first big international tournament, her ultimate dream in life is to win a medal at the World Championship and to qualify for the 2018 Los Angeles Olympics.

“I still have a lot to learn and a lot of hard work needs to be done. Now, badminton is my life," said the youngster.

Indian women's team will start their Uber Cup journey, on April 27 against Canada. After that, they will face Singapore on April 28 and host China on April 30.

India's Uber Cup squad:

Singles: Anmol Kharb, Tanvi Sharma, Ashmita Chaliha, and Isharani Baruah

Doubles: Shruti Mishra, Priya Konjengbam, Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker

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