indianarrative

Nandu Natekar, the first hero of Indian badminton, passes away

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Nandu Natekar led India’s challenge in the Thomas Cup men’s team championship for more than a decade from 1951-1963

India's badminton icon Nandu Natekar, the first player from the country to win an international event back in 1956, passed away in Pune on Wednesday. He was 88.

The six-time national singles champion made his India debut at the age of 20 and successfully shouldered the responsibility of leading India’s challenge in the Thomas Cup men’s team championship for more than a decade from 1951-1963.

Born in Sangli, Maharashtra, in 1933, Natekar dabbled with playing tennis and even reached the junior nationals final against the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan before deciding to focus on his badminton career.

Recipient of the first Arjuna Award in 1961, Natekar was a touch artist who would mesmerise his opponents with his deceptive skills and stroke perfection. He created history for Indian badminton when he clinched the Selangor International crown in Kuala Lumpur in 1956. He and Meena Shah had bagged the mixed doubles crown at Kings Cup International in Bangkok in 1962 and a year later he also won the singles title against all odds at the same event.

"Shri Nandu Natekar has a special place in India’s sporting history. He was an outstanding badminton player and a great mentor. His success continues to motivate budding athletes. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and friends in this sad hour. Om Shanti," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
 

The legendary shuttler also won multiple men’s doubles and mixed-doubles national titles during his career spanning 15 years and reached the quarter-finals in his only All England appearance in 1954.

“One of the towering icons of Indian badminton, Nandu Natekar leaves behind a rich legacy that we shall cherish forever. Six-time national champion and first Indian to win an international title in 1956, he shall be remembered fondly for his drives, drops and smashes,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) President Himanta Biswa Sarma remembered the legend.