This article was originally published by Suhrid Barua 

Vrushali Upadhye is in seventh heaven. No prizes for guessing why. The Pune-based seasoned badminton official has become India’s first World Badminton Federation (WBF) accredited umpire.

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Understandably, Vrushali is gushing with joy. “I always wanted to make it big in badminton. I played the sport at the school level but could not pursue it as academics took the frontseat. I took to badminton umpiring and today, I can proudly say that I have realized my dream of securing WBF accreditation,” she told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.

A science graduate from Maharashtra Education Society’s (MES) Abasaheb Garware College, Pune, Vrushali first took to badminton umpiring in the eighties and became a grade II umpire in 1986 before becoming a grade I umpire in 1993. “I started officiating in state-level tournaments after I became a grade II umpire. I grew in experience and was elevated to a grade I umpire, following which I began to travel all across the country to officiate in All-India tournaments,” the soft-spoken official quipped.

Vrushali gradually climbed up the umpiring ladder and became the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) accredited umpire in 1993, which paved the way for her officiating stints in Asian countries. She later secured an ABC certification in 1998. “Before the ABC accreditation I was only officiating in India. Since 1993 I have improved my umpiring skills thanks to my umpiring assignments in international matches (Asian countries),” she says.

And 26 years as an official is a tribute to her tenacity and dedication. In fact, the WBF accreditation is the latest feather to her cap. “It feels great to be known as India’s first woman WBF accredited umpire. A lot of sweat and toil has gone into it,” she says.

Vrushali also talks about the challenges of being a badminton umpire. “First of all, you need strong concentration powers. Staying focused all the time is the key, also getting familiar with any changes in rules is crucial for which I have to keep track of the rule book,” she explains.

She officiates in minimum hundred matches annually. “As ABC rules stipulates we have to officiate in at least 100 matches a year. I officiate in around 70 matches on the international stage and the rest thirty for the domestic circuit,” Vrushali discloses.

Being the only Indian woman to be a WBF accredited umpire makes her happy but she wants to see more Indian women take up badminton umpiring. “I would love to see more Indian women take up badminton umpiring. Since the job involves intense travelling, most Indian women do not find it an ideal option,” she puts things in perspective.

Vrushali makes her debut as a WBF accredited umpire in the upcoming Syed Modi Memorial International Tournament beginning at Lucknow on December 17. “This tournament will occupy a special place in my memories as it will be my first assignment as a WBF accredited umpire. I’m really excited at the prospect of officiating in Lucknow.”

Irrespective of whether the pay packet for a badminton umpire is decent or not, Vrushali insists she is into umpiring only for the passion. “I took up umpiring not for money. Passion is one thing that drew me towards badminton umpiring,” she makes it abundantly clear.

Vrushali credits her umpiring exploits to her strong family support. “My husband runs a printing business and is very supportive of what I love the most. I also assist him in his business whenever I’m free from my umpiring assignments,” Vrushali signs off.