Gopichand: India has the strongest team it’s ever had for World c’ship

India’s chief badminton coach hopes India utilises its potential to win “as many medals as possible.”

P. Gopi Chand... “If there is infrastructure, [Indian] players are waiting to play [badminton].”   -  M. Vedhan

In the last World badminton championships in 2015 in Jakarta, India got a lone medal when Saina Nehwal bagged bronze in women’s singles.

In the forthcoming world championships to be held in Glasgow from August 21 to 27, India is capable of winning more medals, felt P. Gopichand, India’s chief coach, while attending the All-India junior ranking badminton tournament at the Fireball Academy here as the chief guest, on Thursday.

“This is the strongest team, I would say, we’ve ever had. And I hope we are able convert it into as many medals as possible,” he said.

Excerpts

How is the growth of badminton in India today?

Thankfully badminton has grown quite big and there are lot of players in various events and various age groups. For the future of badminton is it is important that good training is available at various places. May be when I started, it was not that great. Now we have lots of players coming from across the country. Which means, we need to have more training centres and better coaching structure. I believe there is a huge amount of talent. [But] we should plan.

Do you think badminton has spread to many places as it should have?

I think Chennai and Tamil Nadu have so many players. If you look at the numbers, it could not been more huge. The numbers are huge. Somewhere, there is lack of infrastructure. If there is infrastructure, players are waiting to play. Growth of infrastructure is huge in Chennai and Hyderabad.

On your son (Vishnu) and daughter (Gayathri) [they are currently playing in the All-india junior tournament in Chennai].

It’s a little too early to say many things about them. Let them play. They are enjoying the sport, I’m happy.

How much credit would you like to take for the robust growth of Indian badminton?

Lot of people have contributed. Players, coaches, the Government and Badminton Association of India. We all wanted to see this [growth] happen to badminton. It is something we have all dreamt of. My All-England title [in 2001] gave us the momentum. If not for that, I would have not got the support.

What are India’s chances in the world badminton championship in Glasgow, from August 21 to 27?

We have the strongest team, I would say, we’ve ever had and I hope we are able convert it into as many medals as possible.

India seems to be struggling to produce world-class women players after Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu...

Apart from Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Denmark, countries have struggled to produce one player in the last 10 years. Here we have three women [including Rituparna Das] in the top 50 (read 55). Ruthvika [Shivani] (ranked 58 in the world) is doing well. We will have more players.

Your opinion on Kashyap’s comeback from injury by reaching the U.S. Open final last month...

Thanks to better physiotherapy and nutrition we are able to do better. I believe that Kashyap has few more years left in him.

There are rumours that you have interest in administration, and that there is a possible role for you in the Badminton Association of India...

Challenge in the sport is different from what it was a few years ago. Earlier, the challenge was to get entries, today you get more than 1,000 entries. The question is how do you manage, or how do you create pathways for more players to come. In all-India ranking tournaments as late as 2010, I have heard that women entries used to be less than eight. Today, it is a problem of plenty. There is a different set of problems. We need to address it. We need to be dynamic in managing. To understand the problem of the grass-root people is important.

By default, there is a certain amount of administrative work that I do in BAI, unofficially. To go to the next level, we need to organise ourselves better to fulfill the [huge] potential.