The new crop of Indian shuttlers has grown up idolising Lin Dan and Maisnam Meiraba Luwang, world No. 2 in juniors, is one of them. The Imphal boy is disappointed to hear about Dan’s retirement on Saturday and someday hopes to pick the trademark poise and control of the Chinese legend.
Meiraba remembers all the major finals of Lin Dan and excitedly spoke about his famous rivalry with Malaysian Lee Chong Wei. “From a young age I have been watching Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. In crucial points Lin Dan doesn’t get nervous and stays in control, I try to learn these things,” says Meiraba.
Lin Dan won two Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012) – both after beating his friend and nemesis Lee Chong Wei in the final. Dan’s two out of the five world titles came at the cost of Chong Wei in two finals (2011 and 2013). “I remember all the major finals they have played and all were great contests. Both are great players, Lin Dan maybe was just a fraction better in controlling the pressure,” says the 17-year old, who trains under former international U Vimal Kumar at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bengaluru.
Having picked up the sport from his father and badminton coach Maisnam Romesh in Imphal, Meiraba shifted to PPBA in 2013. He was the most consistent junior India player last year, winning four international titles, that saw him reach world No.2 in BWF rankings. As he steps into the crucial transitional phase of entering the senior ranks– Meiraba wants to show the mental resilience and hunger that his idols Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei brought to the court.
He is quick to point out the areas he need to work on. His key focus is to overcome the jitters he faced in major international competitions – Asian and World junior meets – last year. At the Badminton Asia Junior Championships, Meiraba was leading against favourite and two-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in his second round match when he lost his focus. “I won the first game and I was leading in the second when I started making errors and that changed the whole game. I need to be more calm and patient,” he says.
He has learnt his lessons from world junior championships too where Meiraba lost to Su Li Yang of Chinese Taipei in the round of 64. The big stage unsettled the youngster. “I was quite nervous. It was my first world junior tournament and I my mind was not at the moment. I was thinking about so many things. I was horrified,” he says.
“I should not be distracted by so many things which are not related to my game. I will try to gather my mental skills. I am also working on improving my net skills where opponents are catching me.”
An experienced Meiraba then went on to win Korea Junior Open and U-19 singles titles in Nepal and Bangladesh (Junior International Series) besides reaching semi-finals in Singapore Youth International Series.
During the lockdown Meiraba was staying alone in an apartment, close to the PPBA academy, after all his friends decided to head home. “I stayed back because travelling was risky. Only Lakshya (Sen) and his family were there in the other apartment. I was spending time with them and reading.”
Now that the academy has opened, Meiraba has gone back to following his routine. “I don’t want to go back home now, training will suffer.”
There are no competitions being held currently with the world junior championships, too, being rescheduled to Jan 11-24 in Auckland next year. Meiraba is hopeful of his entry. “I think I was eligible for one more year but now that it is not happening this year I have to see whether I can play again if BWF allows me. I really want to test myself at the world junior championships.”