Indian shuttlers have been successful in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games this year but the BWF World Tour has not been memorable. Despite good starts, titles have eluded them.
And Pullela Gopichand, India’s chief national coach, admits that it has been a ‘tough year’ for Indian shuttlers. “We haven’t had time to prepare overall. We had the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the World Championships — and whatever time we had was not enough to work end-to-end,” Gopichand said at the launch of Mumbai Games on Wednesday.
He, however, is happy that despite the challenges, Kidambi Srikanth and P. V. Sindhu have been able to maintain their rankings. “At the end of the year, we still have Srikanth and Sindhu ranked high. We have had medals at the major events. I am happy with the performances,” the national coach said.
Gopichand, who over the years, has played a key role in developing Indian shuttlers also admits that ‘every area needs work’. “If you look at the way Srikanth played, he has lost quite frequently to a couple of them like (Kento) Momoto. If you have to be the best, you have to beat them and for that you need to prepare,” Gopichand said.
“Unfortunately, we have had back to back tournaments. This is not time enough for preparation, I would want a bit longer stint. But I am happy that in this year, we have been successful in major events,” he added.
With too many tournaments coming their way, is it time for the top shuttlers to pick and choose international events?
Gopi, however, feels that it is ‘easier said than done’. “This year was a tough one to pick and choose. Also, players in the top-15 have to play a mandatory number of events, that makes it tougher,” he said.
However, he does not want to blame it on scheduling. “The whole world has to follow it. We have it a bit tougher because of Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, but the whole whole world has it,” he said.
Over the years, the sport has grown immensely, but Gopi feels that the ‘system is still not ready’ and there needs to be more work in every area. “The infrastructure has gone up, parents are sending their kids to play badminton, but to produce stars, we need to work harder,” he said.
He also feels that to encourage top players to take up coaching seriously, ‘coaching as a profession needs to be looked at differently.’
“That’s fundamentally the most important thing. Education of coaches is one aspect of it. Nurturing the coaches and ensuring that you are top players and top brains are converted into coaching and stay motivated with right kind of players is very important.
“Other aspect which is most important is that you cannot look at coaching in isolation. Tournament planning, scheduling and the entire ecosystem in which a player is produced has to be in a way which is coach and athlete centric. That’s the model which is successful and we should adopt. We are far away from it,” Gopi said.
But then, he is optimistic that more and more players will take up coaching. “We have to make it conducive for them to come. If its well-paid and is respected, then why not?” Gopi reasoned.
Gopi, who was the chief guest at the launch of the Mumbai Games, also believes that such tournaments at the local level should be encouraged. The Mumbai Games, a city-level franchise-based multi-sport event will be held in the city from December 14. A total of eight franchises have been signed up and the tournament will be played across eight venues over 12 weekends. Each team will have a mentor for each contingent.
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