From music, to playing cricket, cycling and many more, Anoushka Parikh has done everything and found her first love in Badminton. The best player to represent India, from the state of Gujrat, believes that she still has long way to go and get many more laurels for the country.
Greatness needs mental toughness, perseverence, motivation and dedicated passion & Anoushka is right on the track to be amongst the top players in Badminton.
In this candid & freewheeling conversation, Anoushka opened up on her trainings, sports, love for music and many more. Read in to know more and leave your comments below.
So, how are things for you under lockdown?
As a player, it’s not the best of the times. But I am getting more time to train, as much as twice a day. Other than that, I am spending more time on my studies and reading books. So, in general, I am quite happy as I am getting that extra self-time which was difficult to come by in the past. As a player, I am also worried about the uncertainty around the sport. But eventually, decision is not ours so, it’s best to go with the time and make the most out of it. Our careers are still shaping up, so we still have good sporting years ahead of us. Hence, it’s good to recollect and repurpose ourselves. As players we are seasoned to adapting to new situations and struggles. Hence I believe we should take the current times also as sportingly as possible. It’s good time for players to explore other interests, that they may like to pursue after their sporting years.
Last year, I had lot of injuries. So, it’s good time for me to recover & regain the fitness and make sure that I don’t get injured again. We have played for a long time now, so hopefully our muscle memory will still be intact. We have to ensure that we don’t get injured again in the courts. It will be a matter of practice and slowly get back into the groove.
Anouskha, during her fitness sessions
And your practice routines etc.
I am in Ahmedabad right now. Most of the sports here are in the clubs, which haven’t opened yet. Travelling is quite restricted too. So, it’s not really possible to start playing for most of us in Ahmedabad right now. I do wall practice of around 15-20mins. Luckily, I have garden at home and have got that space to perform short movements and variety of fitness trainings.
Anouskha, during her wall practice sessions
Gopi sir is arranging training sessions for us in the morning. In the evenings I have a 1-1 with a trainer in Ahmedabad. Sometimes, I practice on my own. I make a weekly plan and depending on how I am feeling that day I try my best to fulfil the plan. Last 2-3 days, things have relaxed a bit, so I go for cycling for about 15-20kms. In the colony, sometimes I get to play badminton with kids which is great fun and as well a revision of the basics for me. Yah, I like to share, help people with whatever I know. It is somewhat fulfilling to share your knowledge and experience with other people.
Tell us about your journey into Badminton.
Since childhood, I was always a lot into sports. I was a very energetic kid at home, always ecstatic about this. At home, I used to play cricket with my family. My father had been a tennis player and had played at state & university level, so there was a family touch too. I initially started on Tennis, Swimming & even Skating. One fine day, I went with my mom to a nearby club and tried my hands-on badminton. That time I was 6 years old and since then there is no looking back.
Anouskha, during her early childhood days
I played my first state tournament at 8, in 2005, and convincingly won that tournament. It was like a “this is it” moment for me, feeling so confident and that was the first initial push for me. Badminton then became my passion. My family and school always supported it and helped me a lot in balancing sports & academics. Slowly I was getting better at it, and around 16-17 years of age, is when I decided to really take it as a profession.
Still into academics?
Life had some different plans. Initially, I had thought of going to US for studies, post my 12th. When I finished my 12th, It was my last year of my U19. I took a drop of one year in my studies to pursue badminton & see how things go. Well after that as you see, my passion took over studies completely.
I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s in psychology from University of Massachusetts in states. It’s an online distance learning program and gives me that flexibility while focusing on sports. Now a days, I am trying to finish my degree course sooner so, focusing a great amount of time on studies. The online program allows me to get quality education from any part of the world.
With a career high ranking of 43 last year, how do you your graph going in the next few years?
I have been quite a realistic person and plan things in short-term, without taking the long-term pressure on myself. Taking those baby steps, helps me improve in each game, ensuring that my graph keeps going up. I keep doing self-checks and reflect on my game. Once we start playing, and as the tournaments pan out, we will be able to assess ourselves better. Given the economic circumstances, a lot of players will be in a pressure too, to travel abroad and participate in the tournaments. Quite unsure, really! Seeing that we cannot even train right now and that there are no tournaments coming up, I find it immature to set goals right now.
Close to 100 medals at state level and 50+ national medals…
I don’t have an exact number, but yes, it’s close to 100. There is one entire wall dedicated to catering for those medals. Feels good to see that. I started playing in the national circuit in 2007 so it’s been like 12-13 years. While I am happy to have had a good run through the years and a decent medal tally, there are many players who have achieved many more laurels. So still have a long way to go.
Anouskha, feliciated by none other than Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shree Narendra Modi
How did the international launch happen then?
I represented India first time in 2011, at the Asian youth championship where I won a bronze in doubles. Post that I represented India several times. I also got to play many open tournaments on my own. I Got opportunity to play Asian championships around 3 times as well as the World Juniors in 2015. That’s how I started in the international circuit. It became lot more consistent, once I stepped into the senior circuits. In the recent times we participated in South India Federation Games in Nepal. Our team won gold and as individuals we won Bronze. After December we played two domestic tournaments actually.
Anouskha & Saurabh Sharma at the Singapore Badminton Open 2019
Tournament planning is a two-way process for most of us. Coaches help us out depending on our fitness levels, practice etc. We discuss the options with the coaches who make the final plan. A lot of external factors such as finances and time taken to process visas also play an important role in choosing the right tournaments.
Shift in training from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad
Before going to Hyderabad, I trained in Ahmedabad at various clubs under the guidance of Mr. Unni Krishna Varma for about 13 years.
I did train in Bangalore, Indonesia, and Malaysia for short camps of around 2 months. After that I moved to Hyderabad in 2016.
Anoushka, with her trainer Prandya Gadre
From training 2hrs a day to 6-8 hours was a big jump and physically challenging, but I was prepared for it. We don’t get such golden opportunities every day. At the academy, I trained under Pradnya Gadre who groomed me as a mixed doubles player from the scratch and Arun Vishnu, along with other foreign coaches.
So why the mixed doubles?
Never had special doubles training as such but I was a novice at mixed doubles while women’s doubles was my forte. It wasn’t my natural game. When I moved to Hyderabad, I didn’t have a doubles partner either. I was more into women doubles in past (as I am more of backfoot player) and never thought of getting into mixed doubles. Saurabh Sharma and I came together at the academy, started practicing and things clicked. We started performing well as a unit and even coaches noticed that. Mixed doubles started as a coincidence first, a lot of conscious hard work went into it & thankfully results were good.
Anouskha & Saurabh Sharma at the Singapore Badminton Open 2019
What is that one thing you still want to learn & improve in the game?
As a player, game reading & strategy is something I would like to work on. That has not always been my strongest thing. I can implement things on the court, being self-confident about certain things on the court, strong presence of mind and being brave enough to take crucial decisions on the fly is something I will definitely want to improve.
Your comradery with your double’s partners.
Saurabh Sharma & I played together for 3 years. It was one of the best partnerships I had ever had. I have known him from our junior days, we have played for the country together and we were always good friends. Our communication was great & he is such a hardworking and sincere partner. We used to work extra hours, extra sessions to prepare for matches. We also travelled a lot together and that helped in understanding each other. A great balance of everything we had on & off court.
Anouskha & Kuhoo Garg
Recently I tried to focus more on Women Doubles. That’s where I and Kuhoo Garg had just started playing together in women doubles. During Syed Modi, Arun George & I came together to play in mixed doubles. We played around three tournaments together. Post Covid, let’s see how things goes.
Tell us about your bonding with Gopichand sir.
Initially I had problems opening up to him. I would never initiate a talk personally. Last 1-2 years, that ice broke. I had lot of talks with him about my career, partnerships etc. He is a great listener as well as a very good speaker. He can talk, articulate and can guide you really well. Discipline, on court trainings etc. is strict and non-negotiable at the academy. He keeps track of all players and how they are performing. I was so delighted when he once wished me for winning all India championship. In such a huge academy almost, everyone is winning some tournaments. But to keep track of every player and their career graph isn’t that easy. That day was great, and it made me really happy. He understands things really better and always encourages me in getting over the tough times.
Your sponsors at the moment.
In terms of equipment, I have been with Yonex since 2009. They have been very kind and generous to have me onboard and renewing my contract. That was the first sponsorship I had.
I am also supported by Sports authority of Gujarat and under their Shaktidoot scheme. They help players financially depending on the performance. It’s a reimbursement program and they have been helping me since 2013/14. They help me with my sports related expenses, international trainings, national & international tournaments & even the academy expenses at Hyderabad. It is with their support that I could pursue my passion through the years.
Name some upcoming players, you really admire.
In Doubles, Rutaparna Panda & Tanisha Crasto are fabulous and have been doing wonderfully. In Singles, Gayathri Gopichand is doing really well. They are really promising.
Some of the seniors you upto at the Academy.
Pranaav Chopra, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sumeet Reddy, Sikki Reddy are so hard working, helpful and meticulous. They have all helped me a lot in my games. Sometimes we get to also play together which is great fun. While Pranaav Chopra (bhaiya) often took great interest in guiding me and Saurabh Sharma through the tactical aspects of the game which proved to be very helpful, I have also had the good fortune of having a lot of discussions with Ashwini Ponnappa didi on various topics after sessions. So I have had a very good experience with all my seniors and look upto them.
How has your diet been at home?
I am on a strict diet right now. Coming home has always helped me, in terms of managing my weight. I am very conscious of what I am eat. Not like depriving myself, but just being conscious of the intakes. However, once a week, I do a cheat-meal to keep mind satisfied. Due to my own diet which I have to follow, I make most of the meals myself and help my mom in other stuffs in the kitchen at times.
Any recent movies you caught on.
Have not seen any movies for some time now. I have so many other things to do, so movies don’t come across as an option. Spending time with family, studying, and training take up most of my time plus I have enrolled for a lot of webinars too. Not that I don’t like movies, but just that there are so many other priorities at this point in time.
Your favorite tourist holiday spots.
First on the list will be Nepal. I have fallen with that love with the place. Have been to Nepal many times, but always look forward to visiting that place again and again. Second on the list will be Azerbaijan, followed by Italy.
Anoushka, at one of her favorite locations - Orleans France
Music on your charts these days.
I generally enjoy all genres. But usually it is Indian classical and pop music. Our family has an Indian Classical music background where everyone has either pursued it professionally or as a hobby. My grandmother and mom played sitar while my aunt continues to be a professional sitar player. My dad used to play the Sarod. I too as a kid learned tabla for a while and the piano – which I still play. Lately, I have also been listening to a lot of Indian rock music and the classic western songs from the 70’s. So, I can say that my playlist has a wide spectrum of genres.
Apart from sports, Anoushka spends time on her piano
This article was originally published on cynergyservices.org