If shuttler Shruti Mishra had her way as a kid, she would not have opted to play the sport. Forced to pick it up by her father at the age of six despite being told by coaches that she was too young, Shruti initially disliked badminton. But now, as she earned a spot in the Indian squad for the upcoming Uber Cup and Asian Games later this year, the 20-year-old believes destiny — and God — played a role in making her persist with it.
Shruti will pair up with the Dubai-based Indian, Tanisha Crasto, in the women’s doubles at the two events after the duo came third in the selection trials last week. It’s after a long gap that a shuttler from Uttar Pradesh has made a mark at the top level; Damayanti Tambe was a three-time national singles champion in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and Meena Shah for seven years in a row from 1959 to 1965.
“I couldn’t say anything to my father Manoranjan Mishra, who took me to the KD Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium and requested the coaches, Kaushal and Ansari sir, to train me there,” said Shruti.
“I wouldn’t have picked up the game if I was allowed to follow my heart. Even though I was too young to decide, I didn’t like the sport while I spent the first day on court. But God helped me continue playing badminton and it soon became my passion when I stated winning at the district level, ”she added.
As a six-year-old, she was rejected for being underage when her father took her to the stadium during summer vacation. But Mishra pleaded with the coaches to make an exception. “I just wanted her to play a sport for physical fitness. I wasn’t sure that one day she would play for India at events like the Asian Games, ”Mishra said.
A review officer with the UP Power Corporation Limited, Mishra said he never allowed Shruti to miss training and took her daily from their Triveni Nagar residence to Babu Stadium. “Those efforts have yielded results now,” he said.
After making the cut in last week’s trials in New Delhi, Shruti is in Lucknow for a few days to appear for her second-year graduation exam.
“I spent just two years at the Babu Stadium. After that, I shifted base to the UP Badminton Academy and then the Suchitra Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, before finally moving to the Gopichand Academy last year, ”she said.
Her partnership with Crasto is only a few weeks old, but Shruti felt they combine well on court. “Everything was perfect in Lucknow, but I got the real kick in my career only after joining Gopi (Gopichand) sir. A few weeks before the trials, Crasto and I started training together. I soon realized that she is the best partner for me. The upcoming Uber Cup will be the real test for us as we will be making our debut in an international event, ”said Shruti.
She is equally excited to be part of the Indian contingent for the Asian Games alongside the likes of PV Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa. “They have been a great source of inspiration for young shuttlers like me and I always enjoy and learn from Sindhu’s game,” added Shruti, who won a gold at the Bulgarian Junior International Championship in 2019 in the mixed doubles with Edvin Joy.
Shruti’s long-time coach in Lucknow, Devendra Kaushal, hailed her selection in the Indian squad. “She was very aggressive and skillful from the start of her career. She believes in killing the rally quickly and that’s why her rivals find it hard to understand her style of play, “said Kaushal, a coach with the Sports Authority of India here. “I kept training here even at the UPBA Academy after coaching her at the Babu Stadium. It’s a matter of pride for all of us that a girl from UP has made it to the Indian squad after almost 50 years. “