Sometimes I meet youngsters who dream of achieving much more than I have and they come and ask me about my gear; the racket I prefer, the shoes I use and the clothes I wear during matches. They, too, want to carry the right gear, I suppose, to chase their dreams.
It is no secret what shoes I wear and the racket I carry. I wear (UK) size 24.5 shoes, made by Yonex. No alterations are needed, but with the amount of time I play, I need to change them every two months.
If your shoes don’t fit, your pace on the court may be badly affected. I have never ever slipped on a court because of my shoes. Since I use only the Yonex brand, I have no choice or selection. They send me whatever colour is the rage in the market and I simply wear them. It is easier that way, I suppose.
These days, all kinds of colours have come into the market and I just wait for my pair and wear them, since the shoes come right at my doorstep, even before the need to change them. I have shoes with laces and I tighten them, in between rallies, if required.
I normally play on a wooden court that is covered by a rubber surface, a court normally built by Yonex. I prefer wearing socks while playing and these, too, are sent by my sponsors. The socks I get are free size.
Now let us discuss my other gear and my astra, my racket. Since my gear are sponsored, I have 10 to 12 rackets, ready to be used, in my bag during a match. Even my shoes for playing a match, jogging, casual wear are all provided by the company.
I use a Yonex racket, Nanoray 900, though some of us also use rackets made by other companies. The shuttlecock is extremely light, and so the rackets designed for playing badminton have a maximum speed of 400km/hr. Most of the other companies that design rackets also follow the same principle.
The tension of the gutting is adjusted as per a player’s requirements, which comes with experience. Even a single shot cannot be played if the racket is not tuned appropriately. The gutting of a racket typically wears out within a week.
The rackets, per se, do not break so quickly unless, of course, misused. But the gutting might wear out in one rally if the shot is not well timed. The rackets are designed in such a way that it suits all players. And, whatever be your requirements, these are taken care of by the companies.
And no, the gutting cannot be done on our own. In fact, none of us, professionals, can do it. Companies hire workers with machines during tournaments and they change the gutting as per our requirements. The process is free of cost for anybody who requires it during tournaments.
Though this might sound tiresome to the reader, even my clothes are chosen by my sponsors. Before tournaments, they give me several sets of match clothes of my size. They put the Indian flag on my T-shirt, with my name on the back, and the logos of my other sponsors on the front and the sleeves, as per my request. I have never bothered to find out the cost of the clothes.
I do not know if there is a science to the selection of gear and clothing. Perhaps there is.