An inspiration to many stalwarts of Indian badminton, the legendary Nandu Natekar’s death on Wednesday was mourned by his fraternity.
Natekar, who played a bit of cricket and tennis at the national level before becoming an international shuttler, died in Pune on Wednesday.
The 88-year-old, who won over 100 national and international titles in his career and was the first badminton player to be awarded the Arjuna (1961), was battling age-related ailments.
Abdul Shaikh, who played with Natekar in the Maharashtra team before shifting to Canada in 1967, also had a lot of good memories.
“I am very sorry to hear this news. He was one of the most stylish and graceful international players I have seen in my life,” Shaikh, who went on to coach the Canada badminton team, told PTI from Vancouver.
In the passing of Nandu Natekar, India has lost one of its sporting pioneers. A great player, he brought international recognition to Indian badminton. Honoured with the Arjuna Award, he mentored and inspired generations of sportspersons. Condolences to his family & admirers.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) July 28, 2021
“I had partnered him in India Open in the 1960s. We had lost to Malaysia in the finals. He was someone who actually picked up his superb backhand from Wong Peng Soon of Malaysia. He was such a superb stroke player and had beautiful footwork.” Natekar was also a good singer, according to Shaikh.
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“We used to travel in trains for international and inter-state events and he used to be a good singer. We used to play antakshri,” he laughed, remembering the old days.
‘Godfather of Indian badminton’
Former India shuttler and doubles specialist Uday Pawar also reacted with sadness at the news.
Saddened to hear about the passing away of badminton champion, Shri Nandu Natekar ji.
My heartfelt condolences to his family & well-wishers. pic.twitter.com/Ncn5nMbPzb
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) July 28, 2021
“It is a sad day. He was reputed to have the best back-hand in the world and it is sad we could not have any of his video films to watch, to know really how great he was,” Pawar said.
“He was the best player Maharashtra has produced in badminton.”
Dipankar Bhattacharjee, who represented India in 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, described him as a “Godfather of Indian badminton.”
“…I think even Prakash Sir used to draw inspiration from Nandu Natekar Sir. So, I mean, what you can say, he is the Godfather of Indian badminton,” he said.