An open letter to Manika Batra - We know you will shine again
A sad outing at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 may have left 4-time CWG medallist Manika Batra sans any new medal, but it takes nothing away from the poster girl of Indian table tennis.
The hue and the cry must be settling by now, the roars and tears, the passion and the myriad emotions from the last ten days slowly coming to a halt around you as the echoes from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 settles down.
Sports can be a cruel place. In between the euphoria of wins and the mellowness of losses, the ever-transient place in between where you have to work hard, focus on every point, your eyes keenly on the table, eager to look out for angles, rip those forehands, gently push the backhands, make every second of a match count, the adrenaline coursing through the veins - that's where it all matters, the love for the sport surfaces, every time you take your stance to hit a shot.
Fair enough, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games didn't pan out as they were supposed to for you and that can be an emptying feeling - especially after Gold Coast. So when your face crumbled after a loss in the quarters of the women's team event at the Games, an obvious disappointment washing over it, as you all went down fighting to Malaysia, we could all sense how you must have been feeling in that moment.
Nothing does hurt more than being so dangerously close to a medal. Nothing does hurt than knowing the feeling of winning and not being able to taste after you've known the high - and as you sat there on the sidelines, all of it was on your face, your shoulders heaped with the responsibility of leading a team of CWG debutants.
It might be easy to point a finger, dissect and analyse what went wrong but in sports, wins and losses are as transient as they come - if there is a trough, there must be a crest, and all we need to remember is that we are riding the wave, rhyming with the tide.
Because if we have to think, for us, Manika, you are still the girl who made Indian table tennis become a talking point in every conversation on the rise of Indian sports as you easily became the poster girl for the sport in a country that lives and breathes cricket, after your heroics at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where you won four medals - including two glistening golds as well, a rave, rave feat in the chapter of Indian table tennis.
So, you've known the high. You've been the star. You've seen it all - which makes all of this difficult to accept, for us, for you, for everyone.
Therefore, even if things did not fall into place at the Commonwealth Games this time, it takes nothing away from you - because you've always bounced back, made history, gone where none have been able to reach before, been one of India's top paddlers, delivering consistently, whenever the need comes, amidst the chaos that surrounds the sport now in the country, you've managed to always bring your best to the table, fight till the end - which makes me believe in the spirit of a champion that lies within you,
Chin up, Manika, we know you'll know shine soon again.