with ATUL EDWARD
DOB: 26th July 1969
Club: Khar Gymkhana
Atul Edward is the most decorated player of Indian Pickleball. By representing India at various international tournaments and winning there, Edward is a path-breaker.
“Well it’s a feeling like none other, being able to compete at the highest level and win for your country is something different. When you hold aloft the Indian flag after a victory……. it’s surreal!!!”
But this surrealism had a casual beginning when once he first saw Pickleball while on a visit in the USA and got a chance to play the game. He was a competitive Badminton player but for some unknown reasons was not enjoying Badminton then. Instead, he was in search for some alternate sport that would provide more fun.
“Pickleball happened 20 years after I gave up playing Badminton. Luckily for me I have kept myself fit through out and so when I found that it was being played at Andheri Sports Complex and it had Mr Valavalkar’s number to contact, I gave it a shot. That’s how my Pickleball journey began.”
Having always won a gold in national events and almost half a dozen international medals, Atul Edward finds each of his victory to be special. But what he enjoys the most in Pickleball are the friendships he has made in the circuit.
“It’s a super easy sport to get started with. Fact that you play in close quarters helps to build camaraderie and bonds amongst fellow players. The health and the fun quotient is another plus.”
Edward is playing constantly for the last 8 years. He has stated playing with a wooden paddle when Pickleball was just taking baby steps in India.
“I later moved on to using a graphite Prolite paddle. Then played with Paddletek for a year. Currently, I play and am a sponsored player with Selkirk USA. Its been an amazing journey with them and am proud to be part of their team.”
Atul Edward has been a witness of all the ups and downs of Indian Pickleball. It can be said that Pickleball and Edward have grown together in this country. Edward definitely wants a robust Pickleball programme here but that needs Indian youth to embrace the game. To give a boost, he himself partners with young players like Krishna Mantri with whom he won the Doubles event at Bangkok Open 2018 or Sakshi Baviskar- his 16-year old Mixed Doubles partner at the 4th National Championships at Bengaluru.
“I think the best way forward is to introduce Pickleball in schools. But the hurdle is that the schools and other educational institutes adopt those sports which are part of our established sports associations. Since Pickleball is a relatively new sport that barrier needs to be surmounted. I really hope that Pickleball gets recognition so that the growth is exponential and organic.”
Representing India at the highest level has always given him a sense of pride. But while competing in the international events he found a clear contrast between India and other Pickleball-playing nations in terms of the growth of the game.
“As far as talent, we certainly can hold our own. But as a nation, we are obsessed with one and one sport only and all else seems inconsequential. Things are changing but it’s rather slow. The growth internationally seems more organic and structured. The infrastructure is also far superior. They have easier access to venues, equipment etc. Moreover, there is an elaborate sport culture, sportsmen are given their due and most importantly people’s understanding of the blood, sweat and tears it takes to become a competitive sportsman.”
Thus, the way ahead for Pickleball in India is long and tiresome. And on this road, contributions of people like Atul Edward, who is ready to give time and patience to this sport, will definitely be counted. Taking time off from his own business of clothing brand, Atul plays the game twice or thrice a week. When a competition approaches he puts extra sessions every week.
“Yes, it does take a lot of time if you are not careful as to where to draw the line. It could eat into family time unless the family is involved.”
Notable Domestic Wins:
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Senior Nationals, Bengaluru in 2018
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Senior Nationals, Jaipur in 2017
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Maharashtra State Championships in 2017, Nanded
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Federation Cup Pickleball Championships in 2017, Dehradun
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Maharashtra State Championships in 2016, Aurangabad
Gold in Men’s Doubles at Sporting Lions Outdoor Championships 2016
Notable International Wins:
Gold in men’s Doubles at Bangkok Open Pickleball 2018
Gold in Mixed Doubles at Indian Open Pickleball Championships 2017
Bronze in Men’s Doubles at Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament 2016
Bronze in Men’s Doubles at Madrid Open Pckleball Tournament 2015
Gold in Men’s Doubles at Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament 2014