Eton Badminton Update

Tuesday, 16th October 2012

The Eton Badminton Team has been among the best in the league over the last few years and this season they hoped to continue their winning ways. Mr. Salter retook the reins as team coach and top B blockers returning from previous years included the new keeper, David Li (College), and former keeper, Nathan Salter (JMO'B), as well as Tom Wrigglesworth (MAG) and Rishi Agarwal (BC). Eton had also managed to poach the talented Ed Lee (MJP) from Windsor Boys, courtesy of a Sixth Form Scholarship, and he along with the rising stars of Tony Yu (BC), Henry Priddis (JMO'B) and Barney Wilkinson (PGW) from lower blocks rounded off a very solid top order. There is a great depth of Badminton talent at Eton and there were at least 10 other people in addition to those mentioned who have played a match for the school so far this season.

The season kicked off with a local derby against Slough Grammar. The match was played with three pairs a side in a round robin format and players were eager to shake off the rust and get off to a good start. The 1st pair of David Li and Nathan Salter recorded wins in three relatively straightforward games in a continuation of last year's winning combination, Salter proving that consistently going to the gym instead of Badminton training can do wonders for smashing prowess! The 2nd pair found it slightly tougher than the 1sts but rugby-hardened Tom Wrigglesworth's massive smashes still proved too strong for the Slough defences. The 3rd pair were unlucky in losing their matches against admittedly much stronger opponents, despite the theatrics of Henry Priddis. The match was won overall by Eton, a great start to the season and at long last revenge on opponents who had been consistently superior in years gone by.

Next up was an away match against Bradfield in which Eton fielded a larger but weakened team of six pairs in order to give newer players match experience. Each pair of pairs going down the order from both schools would play the corresponding opposition pair of pairs in a mini round robin. With Nathan Salter out, Ed Lee made his Eton debut straight into the 1st pair alongside the keeper and impressed with his deft net shots, the first pair sweeping the floor with the Bradfield players. The 2nd pair of mercenary Max Goswami-Myerscough (JMO'B) and Tony Yu recorded similarly straightforward wins. Further down, the inexperience of the Eton pairs, many of whom were getting their first taste of competitive Badminton fresh from Wednesday Badminton club, and the strength in depth possessed by Bradfield, showed as a series of relatively close games ultimately went to Bradfield. The match was won overall by Bradfield but the score does not reflect how dominant the top Eton pairs were and one might suggest that, had a full-strength Eton side been playing, the match would have gone Eton's way.

No Eton sporting season would be complete without a trip to the old rivals, Harrow, a Badminton side which has been notoriously strong in previous years. Each school fielded four pairs and the match was played in a round robin format, each pair playing every other pair. Harrovian pairs are generally fairly even in quality down the order and this showed as every game between every pair proved close, with the unusual pairing of Nathan Salter and Tony Yu playing in some especially tight games. The fourth pair found the going especially tough, playing pairs that should all on paper have wiped the floor with them, but the upcoming Sachin Kucheria (PJMcK) put in an spirited effort. The first, second and third pairs beat the pairs below them in the Harrow order, as expected of them, but in the best of three matches between opposite numbers which decided the doubles overall, all three pairs unfortunately came up short. Eton fared significatly better in the singles, Ed Lee putting in an inspired performance, but it wasn't enough to pull the match back and Harrow took the overall victory by a narrow margin.

A home match against Wellington was the last fixture before the season's quarter-way point. The match was played with the 1st and 2nd pairs playing each other, and the 3rd and 4th pairs playing each other in two round robins. The 3rd and 4th Eton pairs recorded relatively straightforward victories against their opponents. Eton's 2nd pair were just edged by Wellington's top pair but were able to easily beat Wellington's 2nds immediately afterwards. The match between the top pairs from each school was a 3 game thriller and quite possibly the best of the season so far. Wellington emphatically stamped down their authority in a dominant first game before the Eton pair of David Li and Nathan Salter rallied and managed to edge a nerve-wracking second game 22-20, a couple of Wellington errors near the end proving costly. A decider followed and again it was tight but Eton managed to establish a 5 point lead halfway through, a margin which would prove decisive as Nathan Salter powered Eton to an eventually comfortable victory with a string of massive smashes. The match went to Eton 7-1, a good result against relatively strong opposition.

Internally, it seems as though the popularity of Badminton as a sport at Eton has been greatly increased by the Summer Olympics. Badminton club on Wednesdays and Thursdays has consistently been extremely well attended, courts overflowing with eager players. Mr. Salter and perhaps the best Badminton coach in Berkshire, Mr. Godfrey, have been guiding talented newcomers such as Henry Constable (TEWH) through the intricacies of the game, and the fearsome Mr. Gazet, aided by the sprightly Mr. Strutt, has been restoring Thursday club to its former glory. The F Minor Sports Badminton program has also been a success with some F blockers even begging to stay on court after their allotted time has ended.

The season so far has been fairly inconsistent for the Badminton Team, mainly caused by the sporadic availability of several key players, but hopefully the team can rise to the challenge and have a more successful next quarter. Within Eton, one feels that Badminton has risen to greater heights in terms of popularity and it is hoped that this enthusiasm will continue even through the dark months to come.

Li, D. KS