Gopi Chand: Indian badminton has ‘strength and depth’

The Indian badminton coach was pleased by the shuttlers’ showing at the Commonwealth Games.

P. Gopi Chand (top, centre) alongside medal winners at a felicitation event on Tuesday.   -  Nagara Gopal

The benchmark for the current crop of Indian shuttlers should be much higher than P. Gopi Chand, according to the man himself.

“It is a different era compared to when I played. The benchmark should be Indonesia, China or Malaysia. And, honestly, they have already bettered my achievements. Well, the benchmarks are much higher and so are the targets, the responsibilities bigger and still I believe these players (looking at the medallists in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games at his Academy) are young and capable of producing bigger results in the days to come,” Gopi explained during an interaction at his Academy here on Tuesday.

‘Long way to go’

“We have a long way to go. We still need a system for even better results. And, I must mention here the kind of support these players got from those working behind the scene (the support staff at the Academy) who tirelessly and far away from the limelight quietly do their job diligently,” Gopi said.

“Over the years, Indian badminton was all about one or two pivots. But, the trend has changed now as each one of the squad has contributed to the team’s success,” he said. “For instance, Ashwini [Ponnappa] and Satwik [Rankireddy] winning the opening mixed-doubles contest in the team event final took the pressure off Srikanth to give off his best against Lee Chong Wei and then who in turn set the tempo for Saina to finish off in style,” he explained.

“There is strength and depth in this Indian badminton squad. Honestly, I never dreamt of a team event gold in the Commonwealth Games. And a lot of credit goes to Ashwini for the way she marshalled her doubles partners in both women’s and mixed doubles events. She showed great resilience and amazing fitness levels right through. To play four matches featuring three-setters on a single day is no joke,” he said.

“Well, the young doubles players Satwik and Chirag too deserve lot of praise for the way they have responded to the occasion. I am really thrilled with their performances and to win maiden Commonwealth Games medals at such a young age is really special,” he added.

Healthy rivalry

“Saina and Sindhu featuring in the singles final is very special for all of us. I must say Sindhu beating defending Commonwealth Games champion Michelle was also a big feat considering that she was recovering from an injury,” he said.

On the Sindhu-Saina rivalry, Gopi reminded it actually helps both of them to raise the bar. “Fortunately, in our Academy we have these kind of rivalries between Srikanth and Prannoy, too. We got to have such kind of atmosphere during training for it results in healthy competition,” he said.

Gopi was pleased that India had emerged as a multi-discipline powerhouse in the Gold Coast edition of the Games in contrast to the earlier Games when four or five athletes would win most of the medals. “These Games changed the dynamics of India in terms of medal-winning performances and this is a good augury for the future,” he said.