World Badminton Championship

Saina Nehwal has won her first two matches and plays 6th seed Shixian Wang tomorrow. Shixian Wang comes into the quarter finals beating Jie Yao, the 11th seed in a slightly more emphatic style. So lets see if Saina can enter the semis. The other quarter final to watch tomorrow is between Hongyan Pi (5) and Xin Wang (3). The winner of this match will clash with the winner of Saina vs. Shixian in the semi final.

Meanwhile current world number one, Yihan Wang is out of the tournament. [update 8PM IST, 27Aug: She’s out of the tournament. Toobad – but I think she was outclassed well and truly in 34 minues flat]

BTW, I made one observation about tags and google searches and hits on websites. It’s quite surprising that not a single soul has stumbled upon my website through google using the search phrase “Saina Nehwal”. So I ran a quick analysis on what search topics have been most successful in diverting traffic to my website and the result was quite an eye opener. Other than searching for me, people who spend their time looking for fairness creams and pani puris are more likely to come up to my site as compared to people looking up John Abraham’s butt or Katrina Kaif. Or Saina Nehwal for that matter. I felt quite let down since the whole purpose of writing about that man’s butt was to get more iballs. I thought about it for a couple of minutes and then guessed what must be amiss with my logic.

It’s the thing about statistical long tails and probabilities. Since Saina, Katrina and butts are much written about the chances of my humble ramblings on them getting shown up early enough in Google search rankings is miniscule. But since the likes of pani puris, fairness creams and IFCI sit on the long tail, the chances that my website will get picked up, if someone is looking up on these topics is high. It runs counter to common logic – that write about hot topics and you’ll get noticed more. Niche positioning. I am amazed at the kind of people that my writing resonates with – imagine being patronised by someone who is interested in “fairness creams for Muslim boys”! Or surfers  concerned if eating “pani puris will cause blindness”.

Some time back I had read a very insightful book called “The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand” by Chris Anderson. The book talks about the growth of niche markets and specialist sales on the internet. So taking a leaf from this book and applying the conjecture developed above, I guess the key to getting more and different people to look at my website is to use many many tags (Napster, Amazon, eBay use the limitless potential of online store to stock up an enormous array of merchandise) and tags that are off center. If this post sounds like a pathetic lament to increase the traffic on my site as opposed to writing what really interests me and my core group of readers, then you hear right. Screw it. I dont care how many new sets of feet trample my online space. I will write what I want to write.

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Saina’s Interim Success

While I’m shuttling around the city of the nizams, searching for a place to stay there have been so many times that I’ve looked up to see posters felicitating Saina Nehwal for her feat of being one short of one. I guess most of us would have read or heard or seen somewhere about Saina getting to world number 2 (with 64,791.26 points) behind Wang Yihan of China.

China = 1, India = 2. Looks good.

If you have been following her comments, you’d know that she has taken measured steps and always achieved the incremental targets that she and her coach, P. Gopichand have set for her. Last year she said,

“For the next year, my target is to break into the top 5 and also make my mark in the All England, World Championships and Super Series events.”

She’s gotten there. At least the ranking part. And now she says,

“It will be difficult to hold on to the ranking but I hope to continue my hard work and win more titles and become the number one player soon.”

But there is a concern. Is this her peak? Or will she head higher. I am sure no one will be answer that – not even Saina, but we’ve seen her ‘homophone-nym’, i.e Sania fizzle out. There so much more to aim for – the coming Olympic gold notwithstanding. But the best part is that she seems to be carrying a very mature head on her 20 yr old shoulder. In a recent interview she said:

“I have been training very hard and with more hard work I am sure to reach the top. I want to stay focused at my game to become number one. It is important for me to make my country proud.”

I particularly noted the phrase “It is important for me to….”. I think she has been coached very well by her parents and Gopichand. I’m some 14-15 summers elder to her and I cannot find any immature volley in her statements. I’m sure fans and observers much elder to me would also feel the same.  There have been quite a lot of financial hardships behind this interim success of hers. Imagine having to spend ~50% of your monthly income on the training of your kid. That’s what her parents did. And when that was not enough, they withdrew from their accumulated Provident Fund savings. When asked why she did not take up tennis, she said:

“No. My first love is badminton. I’m often asked why I didn’t try tennis. Training in tennis is too expensive compared to badminton”

Wow. I like the approach to money. As of now, at least. Sonia made friends with Sania, hope she leaves Saina alone. The former friendly overtures were obvisouly intended to gain Muslim votes but what kind of votes can Saina bring? Jat votes from Haryana? Well, I don’t know for she appears to have stayed in Hyderabad most of her time. But things can change. Currently her ask would be in the range of 20 – 40 lakhs per ad. It can surely climb up to a crore per ad if she bags the numero uno position. I hope money won’t corrupt her game. She’s been promised 101 gold coins if she wins us the World Championship in Paris this August. Then there are the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games due this year as well. Lets see. Gopichand had turned down endoresment offers from the cola companies citing moral resposibilities of sportsmen since they are role models. Maybe he did not want young Indians to take to colas or maybe the money offered was not good or maybe there was the political fear given the drama that kicked out the cola giants out of India and gave us our Thums Ups. Saina’s priorities seem to be clear:

“Todays generation wants to drink everything. I am also one of them. Gopi sir took a very brave decision because he believes if we do anything, the public follows. I don’t see it that way that if I drink, others will also start drinking it”

Very logical and all fine. I also agree with her observation that today’s generation wants to “drink everything”. But I only wish Saina to drink success and more success. Money or no money. It’s all understandable considering that her winnings have been very paltry till a few years back and most of her money was spent in telephone bills since she had to pick up the hundreds of congratulatory calls on her cellphone while being on international roaming! Its not funny really.

Track her please, whether you understand badminton or not. This kid, whose caller tune (till some time back at least) used to a peppy Punjabi number, is the purest and totaly deserving world class sports performance to come out from this land of over 1 billion. How I wish India is a world beater in a team game as well – cricket does NOT count as a team game at all.

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