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India's badminton legend Nandu Natekar admits giving nothing back to the game

India's badminton legend Nandu Natekar, who was honoured by The Legends Club at the Cricket Club of India on his 83rd birthday, chose to highlight the evening with an admission.

Badminton great Nandu Natekar (left) being felicitated by Legends Club president Madhav Apte at CCI on Thursday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Badminton great Nandu Natekar (left) being felicitated by Legends Club president Madhav Apte at CCI on Thursday. Pic/Atul Kamble

“I have a confession to make,” Natekar announced on Thursday. So many people talk about giving back to the game through coaching, like Prakash Padukone, P Gopichand and Uday Pawar are doing. I did nothing of the sort. I started playing tennis the day after I quit badminton and was into music. I have given nothing back to the game,” Natekar told his surprised audience.

Unique member
Natekar became the first non-cricketer to be inducted into the Legends Club. He was the first Indian to win an overseas title – the singles in Selangor, Malaysia in 1956. He clinched 17 national titles.

Natekar also recollect how he missed the opportunity to endorse some brands. “Subhya (India leg spinner Subhash Gupte) and Wilson Jones (world billiards champion) had lined up two deals for me — Brylcream and Vicks Vaporub I went to Mr Agaskar, secretary of Badminton Association of India, who told me, ‘don’t do this. Otherwise you will be considered a professional and your career will be over,” Natekar said.

Natekar also recalled how his wish to meet Acharya Vinoba Bhave was fulfilled. “Once, we went to Wardha to play some matches. I expressed my wish to Acharya’s secretary, Nirmala Deshpande. She said he is his maun vrat (a vow to keep silent). but come and see him in his ‘dyanastha’ pose. When we reached there, she whispered something in Acharya’s ear. On seeing me, he said ‘jai badminton.’ Later, I asked Nirmala what she whispered in Acharya’s air and she replied, ‘Nandu Natekar.’ ”  

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