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Pratul could turn out be a fast climber

Stan Rayan

KOCHI: He may be one of the country's top juniors but badminton player Pratul Joshi has a habit of losing money at the Tata-Padukone Academy in Bangalore.

The 17-year-old frequently turns up late for morning sessions and ends up paying a price for it.

“I'm really a lazy guy…I've been like that from my birth,” admitted Pratul frankly during the RSC Open here. “Am still working on it and have improved. But you know, when I wake up at 5 a.m….I think ‘why' and then go back to sleep.

“I'm the most ‘fined' player at the academy… 9.45 is the playing time and if I reach at 9.46, I have to pay a fine of Rs. 200. Till now, I've paid Rs. 800 as fine.”

However, sometimes, things are different.

“Some days, I think that I have to be the World No. 1 one day and suddenly get up, knowing that I have to work very hard towards it,” said the Madhya Pradesh player, who has been training at Prakash Padukone's academy for the last one and half years.

U. Vinod Kumar, currently one of the five National coaches in badminton, feels that Pratul, the men's No. 5 in India, could make a big impact in the senior world rankings in the next few years.

“Pratul is very sensible, very calm. Within the next five years, he should be in the World's top 15,” said Vinod, the younger brother of former National champion Vimal Kumar. “He is capable of going into the top five after that but the top-15 is the short-term target. His immediate target is to win the world junior championship this year (in Taipei in October) or next year.”

Pratul is light on his feet and very quick too.

“He is also nimble-footed, he bounces back after playing a shot…he is always in the correct position when the shuttle comes back,” said Vinod who coaches Pratul at the Bangalore academy along with Prakash Padukone and Vimal.

Nikhil Kanetkar, the former national star who appeared to float on court, immediately comes to mind.

“He is even better than Nikhil,” said Vinod. “Pratul has a lot of time to play his shots because of his correct position and quick movement… but of course, Nikhil had a much better variety of strokes.”

Son of SAI badminton coach Atul Kumar Joshi, Pratul took to badminton at six with his younger brother Aditya Joshi, a talented player too.

“I used to play casually but I became serious when my dad told me I had a good chance in the sport,” said the 12th standard student of Dhar Public School.

He claimed the under-16 Asian junior bronze medal two years ago and hopes to make a bigger impact in next month's Asian youth (under-19) championship in Lucknow.

Indonesian Taufik Hidayat and China's Lin Dan are his favourite players.

“I have a video of Taufik playing Lin Dan in the Asian Games, in my mobile,” said Pratul. “I look at it now and then …for inspiration, for the way they play, the way they move.”

Lessons that will come in very handy when he starts climbing badminton's big ladder.

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