A Scuffle with the Shuttle with the Buragohain Brothers

    “It’s a psychological game, one has to dominate the game and read the mind of the opponent”.

Rackets gripped tight, minds clouded with game strategies and confident disposition, the Buragohain brothers enter the court at the Padukone-Dravid Center for Sports Excellence in Bangalore for yet another round of practice. Securing their place as the top shuttlers in Senior Men’s National Rankings, Anjan and Ranjan Buragohain have showcased extraordinary talent and intense sportsmanship, conquering both Corporate Tournaments and National Championships. The twin brothers from Assam are the rising face of the Badminton Association of Assam besides being beneficiaries of the Badminton Association of India. While laurels now flow in from all corners, the climb to success has been little short of a journey often termed ‘impossible’.

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Hailing from a lower-middle class family, badminton came but naturally to the twin brothers, with their elder sister, Pori Buragohain a patron of the game and player herself. Elementary coaching in the ONGC Badminton Staff Club supported by expert tips from their sister helped the brothers master the game at the tender age of 11. However, the beam balance between gruelling school schedules and tiring coaching sessions was not an easy task. When asked on what kept them going through the tough times, pat came the reply, “Lin Dan, the badminton professional from China who holds the credit of being a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion. His moves and aggression have us sweat it out even more. We practice more than 45 hours a week, push it hard at the gym and swear by a strict diet chart”.

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Both Anjan and Ranjan have aggressive gameplay and are unbeatable in their attacking style. They share an impeccable bond on the court with Ranjan controlling the net while Anjan does the smash. Recalling one of his early matches that stays itched in the memory, Anjan shares, “When I played singles there was this National-level match against a player from Kerala. He was leading by eight points in the final game. I knew I had to do something to turn the tables. I dribbled the shuttle, smashed and shouted each time I won a point. My aggression had him lose focus and get frustrated, giving me an advantage and Yes win the match as well”.

While the achievements bring a smile on the brothers, memories of the tumultuous journey give them strength to become icons for countless aspiring players in the state. If there was anything that deterred their speed when young it was the financial constraints of their family. “We confronted several hardships during the course of our journey, the prime one being a weak financial support. It was frightening for us at times. I’m glad we sailed through,” recalls the duo.

Despite the hiccups, the Buragohain brothers cherish every moment of their life and often give themselves a good break, travelling to the mountains. The gadget lovers enjoy an equal inclination towards cooking and love gorging on Assam’s traditional cuisine, the Ahom Pork Curry. Taking a drift from what they love, we popped the question about their parents to which they gave a soft reply, “We moved to Guwahati post our mother’s demise. We miss our parents but life moves on and so did we. We believe we are matured enough to carry it forward,” affirmed the elder brother.

As the ace badminton duo prep up diligently to conquer the Olympics, sweating it out on courts across cities, we indulge in a candid conversation with them, unveiling their stint with a game only a few mastered, their life as kids and message to young players. Below are a few excerpts from the conversation:

Did the Corporate Tournaments stabilise your financial condition?

Of course, it did. One of the biggest turning points is the opportunity we got with the Indian Post in 2012, just after our graduation. In 2015, we joined the Reserve Bank of India and have since been well off. The government assistance has surely helped us work our way up the limited financial conditions.

Which sports brand do you swear by for your badminton rackets? What string tension do you use for professional games?

Earlier we played with Li-ning and Fleet rackets and have recently shifted to Yonex Arcsaber 7. An international sports brand, Yonex has a good line of accessories. About the string tension, we use it around 30 Lbs.

What should be a beginners guide to the sport?

Correct grip and technique are the go-to things for any new player. Youngsters must concentrate on their leg movements. It is extremely important to be fast… very fast in this game. Young players must emphasize on their hand and eye coordination to transmit high quality shuttling.

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How does it feel to achieve this feat at such a young age?

We were born to fight and have enjoyed our share of struggles, failures and tears. Our support for each other kept us going and helped build strategies that combined both strength and consistency. We play our own game and have travelled the world for matches. This is our life and we love it this way.

An interesting anecdote from life back school?

We both are alumnus of the Kendriya Vidyalaya, which gave us the opportunity to try our hands on a number of sports. We played cricket and table tennis as well. We bunked classes to be on the fields and play till dusk. Memories of being acknowledged for our state-level victories has us nostalgic till date.

How has the climb up to the Number 1 Ranking in Senior Nationals been?

Quite tough. Competing with experienced players from across the country is no joke, leave alone winning. It’s all about the game strength. We practised with dedication, stuck to our game plans and believed in ourselves. The rest is history.

Your take on the sports outreach in Assam?

Playing in the junior levels, we were quite doubtful of making it big in badminton. However, situations are quite better now. Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma, the current President of the Badminton Association of India and an MLA of the Jalukbari Constituency in Assam, has improved the sports infrastructure, coaching and overall facilities for both the National and International formats. The association has also appointed Edwin Irawan, an Indonesian Coach, to train the budding players of the state team.

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