Playing for India has always been a dream – Tanisha Crasto

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Hailing from Dubai, Tanisha Crasto, was once looked as an outsider in Indian Sports.  In less than 3 years, Tanisha, has proved her mettle and now is one of the rising stars in the Indian Women Badminton Circuit.

Ranked #1 in Junior National Badminton Champion in Mixed Doubles, Tanisha surprised many by winning back to back bronze in the Senior circuit too. Representing the state of Goa now, this girl has the level of dedication & passion to her profession that very few have at the age of 17.

In this candid chat with Cynergy, Tanisha opens up on her inspiring journey, initial struggles, support from family & coaches and how the transition eventually happened from Dubai to the city of Nizams, Hyderabad.  Read in to know more & drop in your comments.

How are you coping up with Covid19..How has it impacted you?

Worldwide everyone is impacted by this.  For us as athletes, we are very focused towards self-fitness. Major setback for us is the lack of on-court practice & training. Our academy is ensuring that they conduct coaching sessions every day in mornings & evenings online. As athletes we need to ensure that we are prepared enough that when a chance comes, we should be ready to push ourselves.

Tanisha, during her workouts at home (Credit – Instagram)

In Dubai, the lockdown has opened up a little. I have a small place which has 2 courts, and last 4 days I am practicing there. I feel fortunate that there are some facilities which I can go and play. I train with my father, and he happens to be my badminton first coach as well. Me, my dad and my professional coach come together to play and train at the court. Slowly & steadily I am getting back to form with some right strokes and movements.

About your family

My dad was a very good cricketer and used to play badminton really well too. He used to take me along and I used to constantly watch him play. That kind of pushed me from within to try my hands at badminton. I finally got a racquet and started to play & train with him. At the age of 7, I got to play my first tournament in Dubai & then various local coaches saw me and recognized my potential. I joined proper academies after that to train myself more professionally. That’s how it all started.

Tanisha, with her family members & pet

I am born and brought up in Dubai. Those days there wasn’t many processes around citizenship ID in Dubai, so we had to go to the nearest country Bahrain and register ourself.  For a year or so, I played a lot for Bahrain, and played in GCC circuit like Kuwait, Qatar etc. I was #1 in GCC and even in Dubai those days.

What promoted you to move to India & why doubles

Gulf doesn’t have much sporting competition & activities around Badminton. Football, Horseracing kind of game is more supported here. Staying & playing here was not helping in my growth. Playing for India has always been a dream. There is so much badminton here, lot more competition, top players and that gives me an opportunity to grow. I started playing with Singles & Doubles in 2016, did really well by winning medals. Gradually, Singles went down and doubles kept going up in my career. Actually, Doubles has been more fun and I enjoy a lot more while playing Doubles.

When in Dubai, I play with my father & his group of friends every day. I had infact always played double even while practicing & training in early days. So, I was like very prepared for it, had a better reading of the game, and ofcourse a familiar territory.

Tanisha, winning the all India Junior Rnaking Badminton Tournament 2018 (Credit -Instagram)

Doubles game is lot faster; stroke anticipation needs to be really quick. We have to have that co-ordination, communication and lot more which goes in the game. In Women Doubles, I am more of an offensive player, tend to move back and attack, thereby giving opportunity to the front person. In Mixed, I try and find my way to go to the front and the boy kind of dominates more. Two mixed powers makes the game more interesting, how do you make your way in the front, creating your shots, these things make the mixed doubles so much fun.

How is the cultural shift like? And your journey in Doubles/Mixed Doubles in India, with your partners on court.

I really liked India since my childhood. I love the buzz around here. When I initially started playing tournaments, media used to cover me as the Dubai girl. Finding my name there was difficult. Then I moved to doubles slowly and kind of left singles. Just when I was looking out for a partner, I met Aditi Bhatt and our doubles pairing just clicked. We played our first tournament and we won bronze, and after that we won all the tournaments, we played clinching gold in all of them. Interesting thing is that we don’t train together as we are training under different academies. Our pairing is like magic, we read each other so well.

Tanisha along with her doubles partner Aditi Bhatt

Post that I tried mixed doubles with Ishaan Bhatnagar in Nagpur. In our first tournament itself, we got gold. So since then, focus has shifted more to Doubles/Mixed Doubles.

Tanisha, along with her Mixed Doubles partner Ishaan Bhatnagar

Ishaan Bhatnagar also is really calm, supportive & equally agile. We had split sometime back, due to some issues but during that break we couldn’t perform either with other partners. We came back together again & won the very first tournament we contested – All India seniors ranking tournament. That break was good, and it made us realize how important we are for each other.

Almost on hattrick of gold but lost a close game in All India Junior Ranking Tournaments, Pune.

Yeah.! We were actually in the lead in the third set in the finals, but somehow, we lost. We have been performing consistently at these levels & that gives me confidence that I can play at higher levels too.

Very soon, you started playing senior circuit by winning bronze in the Asian badminton selection tournaments.

Once I join the academy, generally we follow our head Coach instructions. Coaches advised me to play at higher level, seniors and international tournaments as in the junior I had been performing consistently. Hence, I stopped playing the selection tournaments matches post Dec 2019 tournament, in Rajahmundry.

Finally Getting the Goan Identity..

To start in the national circuit, I need to be first associated with the state. I tried first with Maharashtra, and nothing moved for almost 1 year. We tried for Karnataka and again nothing happened there too & I lost around 6-8 months. Seems like they were confused whether to take me or not. Since My dad is from Goa and we have property there, we tried filling all the applications and finally I got to play for the state of Goa. That’s how it all started with me playing for Goa.

One win you will always remember

All tournaments are equally important. But the Recent tournament – Bulgarian Junior International Championship, I had initially lost hope after seeing the players there. They were so good on courts, really fast, and I used to question myself if we can really compete and tackle them. After seeing the fixtures, we kind of thought that it’s tough to cross past Quarter finals.

In QF, we were up against Denmark athletes who were in top 10 junior rankings globally. That match we outperformed them and really nailed it. We were shocked by our own performance on the court. That gave us huge confidence on our abilities. Semis was little easy compared to prior matches as we knew the players well.

In the finals, we played against the first seed (Bengisu Ercetin and Zehra Erdfm), from Turkey. They had kept winning in the tournament, as they were so good in attacking. We countered them and didn’t give them any chance to attack us, keeping shuttle down at each attempt. It went into three sets and the third set was so close (21-18). It was just my last receive and I sliced my shuttle. We won that match finally. It was an international tournament and I had my India flag behind me. That was the moment which we live for. And such a huge confidence booster for me, to perform at highest level in future.

Tanisha, Winning the Bulgarian Junior International Championship (Credit – Instagram)

Another incident was when I was 12/13 years old, when I played the Bahrain International Series where I had partnered with an Indonesian athlete, playing against India. We played and won that game quite easily. The happiest reaction to see, was from my father. It was like a youngest girl winning an international series then. Witnessing those moments are worth and I can do anything to feel such moments.

You had a great World Junior Championship, late last year.

Yes, that was an easy group for us. I, Aditi, Ishaan Bhatnagar were confident that we can conquer against USA & Italy. We won those games quite convincingly in 20-22 mins.

One really fascinating match we played there was against number world one seed – Leo Rolly CARNANDO and Indah Cahya Sari JAMIL (Indonesia) in the mixed doubles. We won the first game (22-20), lost the second game (16-21), in the third we were leading at one point 17-13; and we still lost the game (17-21). We had an amazing response from the crowd as we had almost defeated them. Felt bad loosing that game, but that’s one of my memorable sport. Whatever gone is gone, we learn from losses and move on to the next game.

My dad always records my matches. I do look at tapes to understand my mistakes and improve. My dad will point me on areas which needs improvement. He is a big critic of my game, at the same time encourages me a lot during games, giving right inputs on the strategy etc. Its great being under him.

Your Support & Sponsors.

When I was in 10th, that time I had moved to Gopichand Academy. My school in Dubai has supported me a lot. I come under the Rahhal Scheme of Dubai Government, which aims to integrate learning with life, and life with learning. It encourages players like us to pursue our dreams, excel in sports/Arts/Culture, without losing our focus on studies. I was picked in the first phase of this scheme along with three others. It allowed me to skip schools, study offline and come back for governmental papers. I played throughout the year, came during the last three months for my board exams. Post which I shifted to the academy fully.

They promoted me in 11th and in 12th things are relatively kept easy for us. I am able to manage it for now, thereby ensuring that education is not left out. It’s as important as my sports.

I am associated with Adidas Badminton India from last 2-3 years. Luckily, I was the first girl to be sponsored by Adidas in India. They take care of all my equipment/gears etc. Last year, I got under Welsupn India and they help me a bit financially on traveling etc. Thankful for their support and believing in me. Whatever has to come, it will come eventually. My dad always advises me to keep playing & performing and not worry about other things.

Tanisha, supported by Welspun 

My dad left his full-time work for me, and Dubai is no cheap. Everything increases except the salaries. It was actually very difficult for our family to keep supporting me financially. As a sportsperson, I need to travel domestically and internally to perform & play games. By gods grace, I am winning games and that helps me recover some money spent from pocket. It feels good that I am able to help and contribute in my family.

Seniors you look upto at the academy.

I look up to Ashwini Ponnappa in Senior Circuit, Sikki Reddy, Sumeet Reddy & Pranaav Chopra (Jerry). I feel so lucky that sometimes I get to practice with them too. They are so very nice, humble, and helpful. I learn a lot from them about the on-court attitude, handling critical situations, and everything around that. There is lot to learn from them & I really look upto them to guide us.

Tanisha, with her seniors HS Prannoy (left) and srikanth kidambi (right) 

Your bonding with the coach

Gopi sir is such a wonderful person. Always supportive of anything and everything we believe in. He comes, trains us sometimes & his sessions is so really hard. Our fitness has so much improved due to that. With him around we have to give our 200% on the ground. Everyone around has got great results when he is around us.

I have known Gopi sir from much earlier. We met during the Dubai World Super-series finals in Dubai where top 10 global players get an invite to come and compete. I got chance to meet Gopi sir there and since then I have been following him. It’s great to be under him, in his camp and leadership.

Locations you would want to visit again

I would like to visit Canada & Bulgaria again. Loved the snow in Canada, and Bulgaria is like a dream. We came for a vacation in Singapore and it was fun being there. Still have fresh memories of Sentosa & the Merlion in Singapore.

Tanisha, in Canada at one of her favourite travel spots (credit – Instagram)

Caught up on movies

Friends is my favorite Netflix series. I never get tired of it, just like Tom & Jerry during our childhood days. I caught up on a lot of Bollywood movies too, which I missed during the games etc. I spend a lot of together with family and our pet. These moments are so precious. I am just trying to get most out of it and create some great memories.

(Cover page image credit – Instagram)

CynergyServices wishes Tanisha Crasto, a safe health & a great 2020. We thank her for her time & the support to the community.

Follow us on Instagram for more updates.

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