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Badminton

Off-court rivals, on-court partners: Mixed-doubles duo Ishaan and Tanisha eye a grand 2022

Still grounded after their Syed Modi win, 'fire and ice' badminton pair of Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto are keen on making 2022 the 'life-changing' year.

Ishaan Bhatnagar Tanisha Crasto syed modi german open bwf
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Mixed Doubles duo of Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto (Source: BWF)

By

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 9 March 2022 7:09 AM GMT

If he is fire, she is ice. If he is chalk, she is cheese. If he goes North, she might just choose South.

But when you put Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto on the badminton court, somehow everything is nice - fireworks fly everywhere and it is utter coordinated chaos.

Polar opposites, unite.

Having spent the last 7 years self-admittedly "tolerating" each other, Indian badminton town's latest young Mixed Doubles stars Ishaan Bhatnagar, 19 and Tanisha Crasto, 18 finally got their first-big win earlier this year at the Syed Modi International 2022 Super 300 event in Lucknow.

But the victory hasn't gotten to their heads but the thought has rather shifted to the ambitious, "If we can win a big title, why not more?"

And only bigger and better things beckon Ishaan and Tanisha now as the duo are already on the roller coaster of the European leg of the BWF tour with the German Open, All England Open, Swiss Open and the Orleans Masters blocking their March schedules.

In the days leading up to the slew of European tournaments, Ishaan and Tanisha snuck out time to have candid chats with The Bridge, in-between packing, getting haircuts, attending practice sessions while spilling what makes them click, the dreams that keep them going, their tolerate-and-motivate policy and mostly, hoping 2022 is 'life-changing' for them.

The Gen Z badminton player's life

While they may be starkly different from each other and it shows every time they take to the court and contest madly entertaining rallies, both Ishaan and Tanisha do cross paths in other places and are united by a thread of things they love and miss.

For one, they miss the bliss of home food, having to stay away from their family, friends and pets - an adorable labrador Kuku for Tanisha and an uncle's golden retriever, Max for Ishaan and yes, their prized sleep lost over Instagram addiction.

Spurred into badminton by their respective father's, one in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, the other in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Ishaan and Tanisha's affair with badminton started way before their ages hit the double digits.

For Tanisha, who has spent her growing up years in Dubai, born to Goanese parents, it has been an exceptionally wild ride as she would play for Bahrain earlier in her life.

"When I wanted to take up badminton and create a BWF ID, Dubai wasn't registered yet for it and therefore I had to sign up for Bahrain," she explained. And in Bahrain's colours too, Tanisha did wonders, winning in singles and doubles equally well.

"However, I always wanted to play for India. So I moved here and started playing States for Goa and soon I was spotted by the people at the Gopichand Academy when I was topping in the tournaments," Tanisha recalled, connecting the dots between her Bahrain to India transition. Her parents and 'gamer' brother continue to live in Dubai and Tanisha has to keep shuttling to and fro, naturally.

Both fans of Japan's Yuta Watanabe, if they jointly regret something and seem to agree on, it is their shared FOMO of not being able to have an ideal school and college life, both having left "their" people in Dubai and Raipur to join the Academy, where they spend the better part of the year - training, travelling, winning.

But would they trade?

"No! I mean, yes I always miss it and staying away from friends and family is very difficult. But there are bigger dreams to chase here," Ishaan promptly confessed, casting the FOMO aside.

Tasting success only recently with their first Super 300 win, Ishaan and Tanisha are ready to put India back on the Mixed Doubles map - a space unkempt since the days of Jwala Gutta and V. Diju.

Although it is full-fledged chaos on the court every time Ishaan and Tanisha march out, both loudly instructing, screaming, cheering on the other, their Aquarian and Taurean personalities manage to find a method that is refreshingly fun and unique.

P for Patience, C for Communication

Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto in action (Source: BAI)
Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto in action (Source: BAI)

Not ones to be disheartened by the bygones and the slew of missed tournaments owing to the pandemic, both Ishaan and Tanisha have learned early on how to snuff out the negatives.

"COVID and the pandemic have been extremely difficult for us but I'd rather look at the positives of it," Tanisha chirped.

"Thanks to the two years, Ishaan and I now have a better understanding of each other's games, we communicate better on the court, have more clarity and perhaps that is why the wins are coming now as well," she assesses.

While Tanisha came to love doubles by virtue of her growing up years in Dubai where the lack of enough badminton players would lead to her pairing up always for matches, Ishaan is a lover of the gripping rallies and speed that doubles offer - but it isn't any mean task.

"The key thing that a doubles pair should work on is patience," Tanisha says. "You need to be extremely patient, hear your partner, understand and the faster you are able to apply what all is being said, that is what makes you click," the 18-year-old shuttler said, confessing that it isn't the easiest to "tolerate" Ishaan but they wouldn't have it any other way also.

Ishaan is a whole step wiser about this and more than patience he values self-knowledge the most. "In doubles, the key is communication. The more you talk, the easier it is to play. You should work on yourself first and then work on your partner and then work on the partnership," the 19-year-old put.

'Tolerate but motivate' policy

Fire & Ice pair - Tanisha Crasto and Ishaan Bhatnagar (Source: Instagram/Ishaan Bhatnagar)
Fire & Ice pair - Tanisha Crasto and Ishaan Bhatnagar (Source: Instagram/Ishaan Bhatnagar)


But even if Ishaan and Tanisha squabble and fight and don't meet eyes with each other after such tiffs, they always manage to come back together the next day for practice and the past is kept in the past - strung together with the desire to win.

"Sometimes during sessions, Ishaan might just burst out and ask me why I hit a certain shot in a certain way, why I didn't do this or do that and it gets me flustered and we end up fighting! We are like 24x7 rivals," Tanisha spilled.

"But the next day, we are together again," she admitted.

But one wish Tanisha has for him?

"Ishaan, please gussa thoda kam kar!", she revealed animatedly, when asked.

Reading minds, as if, Ishaan was however all praises for his partner, "Tanisha is a great motivator! I'm a very short-tempered guy, gussa jaldi aata hai, but she knows how to calm me down…even if we are on the brink of losing, Tanisha will know just what to say and ensure that my body language is positive," Ishaan confessed.

Both agree that in men's or women's doubles the tendency is to have more rallies and the strengths are matched but in Mixed, there is so much scope to leave you guessing.

"The gender bit plays a big role in Mixed and that makes it exciting. There is a mixture of pace and speed and it can be quite stressful too," Tanisha explains.

"I find Mixed the more difficult of the two as you have to watch out more and stay on alert, cover for the girl sometimes, you never know what kind of returns to expect, it's a lot of fun," Ishaan also analyzed.

The world's an oyster

Ishaan and Tanisha after winning the U-19 Mixed Doubles Nationals (Source: IANS)
Ishaan and Tanisha after winning the U-19 Mixed Doubles Nationals (Source: IANS)


Even though Ishaan and Tanisha have pocketed their first-big win with the Super 300 title, Tanisha has been honest enough to zap out of the high of the win because the Syed Modi title came in a depleted field.

"We know we have a lot of hard work left to do, if we cause some major upsets, it'll feel more special," she said. "But a win is a win," she giggled in the same breath.

For two people who still flip and get starstruck when they see their favourite players live, in the flesh and sometimes opposite the net, both Ishaan and Tanisha burn with the desire to put in more hard work and learn from the whole of the European tour they are in now.

"I've played international tournaments before as well but not at this level! We even got an entry for the All England," a dazed Ishaan said before expressing his fear and excitement regarding facing the legendary Indonesian pair of Praveen Jordan-Melati Oktavianti in the opener of the Super 1000 in Birmingham.

"I used to watch Praveen Jordan's videos on YouTube and watch and learn from it and now we have to play against him, it's crazy," Ishaan gushed.

Fast-taking notes to script a new story for Indian Mixed Doubles when not squabbling with each other, on and off the court, Ishaan and Tanisha remain grounded, sans pressure, sans expectations, mutually empowered by the hunger to win.

[At the ongoing German Open 2022, the first event of the European tour, Ishaan and Tanisha went down fighting against the pair of Gregory Mairs and Jenny Moore in a tight opening round three-game battle, 19-21, 22-20, 21-9. They will play at the All England next.]

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