From skirts to patriotism, national pride Sania Mirza was almost never left alone


Ashish Maggo

Personal problems and controversies are constant bugging factors in every sportsperson’s life. But in the case of Sania Mirza, they have often turned her to tears.

Before 2015 Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Sania’s patriotism became a subject of public scrutiny, she faced diktats from clerics on her skirts while playing on the tennis court.

Once when Sania spoke at a conference on safe sex in November 2005, Muslim leaders alleged she was a “corrupting influence on the youth.” Later, the Hyderabadi had to publically confirm she was against pre-marital sex.

Unfortunately, the tennis player who post Wimbledon has made the world suddenly notice India’s unique domination in the doubles arena, was never left alone.

And not just doubles. During her singles career, Sania has beaten players like Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Marion Bartoli besides former world number one Dinara Safina and her present doubles partner Martina Hingis.

The title at Wimbledon was Sania’s first at the All-England club in the seniors category and her fourth Grand Slam title. She became the first female tennis player to be ranked number one (in doubles) only months before.

But were those silent murmurs of her being Pakistani put to an end? Sania was engaged to a Hyderabadi in childhood friend Sohrab Mirza in 2009. She wanted to marry a sportsperson and met Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik in Australia. They fell in love and got married.

Last year, during a TV interview that discussed how the player was being questioned over her patriotism because she lived in Lahore and represented India, Sania cried her heart out.

It reminds me of what happened in Britain when now Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was always a subject of public scrutiny for his stance on being a proud Scottish national. It only took streams of Murray’s tears at the 2012 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer to realize that the player was human like all of us.

This is the greatest tragedy. Why does it take a person’s tears for us to realize that he/she too has emotions? Why don’t we realize what our criticism can do to an athlete? It can break him down mentally and emotionally.

Sania is representing millions of Indians and making them proud everyday. I have personally talked to so many of the tennis coaches around the world who are absolutely fascinated with what she is doing for the country and for doubles in the sport.

Sania was recently also nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award by the Indian sports minister with the decision clearly coming a bit late for a player who has already achieved so much.

Let us not disappoint someone who is earning laurels for the country. Would any of us Indians have liked if Sania had won the 2015 Wimbledon women’s doubles title for Pakistan? Would you then enjoy calling her a so-called ‘Pakistan’s daughter’?