’Emotional’ Saina Nehwal grabs badminton gold in all-India thriller at Commonwealth Games

Saina Nehwal, L, and other teammates celebrate soon after wining their match against Malaysia to win gold medal in mixed team event at the Commonwealth Games. (AP)
Updated 15 April 2018
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’Emotional’ Saina Nehwal grabs badminton gold in all-India thriller at Commonwealth Games

  • Poster girl of Indian sport overcomes heavy strapping on her right shin to triumph
  • New men's world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth fails to make it a one-two for India

GOLD COAST: Saina Nehwal made up for her disappointing Rio Olympics as she defeated fellow Indian and rival P.V. Sindhu to win her second Commonwealth Games badminton singles gold on Sunday.
In a tense final, the Delhi 2010 champion staged a second-game comeback against Sindhu, the Olympic silver-medallist, to grasp a thrilling victory 21-18, 23-21.
Former world No. 1 Nehwal, 28, a poster girl of Indian sport, used her greater experience to peg back the 22-year-old Sindhu and the decisive moment came at 18-18 in the second game when a mammoth rally went Nehwal’s way.
Both players were left hunched over gasping for breath as the Gold Coast crowd rose to its feet in applause.
Nehwal, the London Olympic bronze medallist, had heavy strapping on her right shin and revealed afterwards she had been playing through pain throughout the competition.
“It was a very pressurised tournament, a lot of top competition from the Malaysians, it was a very challenging tournament,” said Nehwal, ranked 12 in the world to Sindhu’s three.
Asked how this gold ranked to the one she won on home soil eight years ago, Nehwal said: “Much more tough because the pressure is always there when you already have gold, so there is a lot more expectation.
“I put it next to my Olympic medal and my world No. 1 ranking. It’s a very emotional moment because I’ve been waiting for one good, big victory after that disappointing (second-round) loss at Rio where I had to retire because of my injury and had to go through surgery.”

In the men's final, Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei roared back from a game down to beat India's new world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth and win his third Commonwealth Games singles gold.
The 25-year-old Srikanth, who only reached the top ranking on Thursday, went some to justifying that lofty position as he raced ahead 21-19 in the first game of the final on Australia's Gold Coast.
Lee, a decade older than his opponent and approaching the end of one of badminton's great careers, stormed back in the second to take it 21-14. He stepped up another gear to clinch the deciding game 21-14.
Overcome with joy, the Malaysian collapsed on the court, lying flat on his back with his hands over his face. 

Lee, who had most of the crowd on his side, now boasts a trophy haul that includes three Olympic silver medals and three Commonwealth singles golds.
His last Commonwealth singles title came at Delhi 2010 after missing the 2014 Glasgow Games with injury.
Srikanth is the first Indian to reach number one in the world in the men's rankings. Lee is currently ranked seventh.


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.