Jwala Gutta - India needs a proper ecosystem for doubles

Indian shuttler Jwala Gutta stresses on the need for a proper ecosystem for doubles in Indian and talks about the motive behind launching her academy.

JWALA GUTTA

Indian badminton start Jwala Gutta has expressed her disappointment with the state of the doubles game in India, calling its current condition as ‘pathetic’.   -  MOHAMMED YOUSUF

Decorated Indian badminton doubles player Jwala Gutta expressed her disappointment in the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While calling for the prioritisation of public health and welfare, she termed the turn of events as unfair on athletes.

“We're forgetting that next year, players turn a year older and their bodies will react differently. I think for athletes preparing hard for Tokyo, it's inevitable but a little unfair to them, because they have endured physical and mental pressures to prepare themselves for this timeline,” the 36-year-old told Sportstar in an Instagram live session.

“But of course, the circumstances are anything but conducive for the Olympics to happen, so we have to accept it. The good thing for sportspersons is that they are trained to adapt. So they may be disappointed but I think they'll be fine,” she added.

The coronavirus pandemic has left global sport in limbo, with high-profile engagements including the Tokyo Olympics now postponed. Jwala last played in 2017, but is no stranger to the paces of preparation for the marquee quadrennial event, having featured in the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

While hoping for the best for the doubles prospects in the fray for qualification, she expressed her disappointment with the state of the doubles game in India, calling its condition as‘pathetic’.

On one hand, Jwala has been a vocal critic of national coach Pullela Gopichand questioning the centralisation of power in the Gopichand Academy and holding it responsible for the decline of the doubles game in India.

“The issue is that we have given someone who knows nothing about doubles the authority on everything badminton-related in our country. We are looking to him (Gopichand) for answers but he does not have any because he does not understand doubles,” the former national champion said.

RELATED| Jwala Gutta: It is going to be very difficult in Tokyo 2020

On the other hand, Olympic preparations of the doubles players suffered when coach Flandy Limpele resigned in March, citing personal reasons. Limpele stated that doubles was not as favoured as singles in the country. He is India’s fourth foreign coach to resign without completing his tenure and the third to leave the Indian system in under a year.

As far as qualification goes, while Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been consistent and look set to make the cut, securing tickets to Tokyo in 2021 seems a tall order for Jwala’s former partner, Ashwini Ponappa and N Sikki Reddy.

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa celebrate after winning the women's doubles title at the Canada Open in Calgary in 2015.

 

With the new cut-off date for Olympic qualification scheduled for April 29, 2021, Ponappa and Reddy have a tough task on their hands. Currently ranked 28 in the BWF rankings, they have to break into the top-16 to reach Tokyo. Ranked 30 in the mixed doubles category alongside Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Ponappa does not have it easy here either.

- Need to separate doubles from singles -

Jwala called for the separation of singles from doubles in the training process as a solution necessary at the grassroots level.

“The camps have to be separate. You cannot have a combined camp. You have to have a proper ecosystem for doubles. We need an administrator to do what Gopi did for singles badminton in doubles as well,” she said.

October 14 will mark 10 years since Jwala and Ponappa won gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She laments that while her success in doubles brought attention to doubles, especially women’s doubles, that attention hasn’t sustained and has not been matched by investment.

Golden girls... Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta after winning the women's doubles at the Commonwealth Games.

“In India, we have a tendency to make demigods out of people. We splurge money on them after they win. My request to the government is, if you have that kind of money, invest it in nourishing players. Make players out of that money. If they win, give them the money. Players need to know the importance of the financial aspect. Right now, it's selective, that's why we have only one medal hope,” she added.

She reiterated the need for equal engagement and investment drawing from her own experiences of playing in the Commonwealth Games.

RELATED| Ashwini Ponnappa creating past performances' database to be ready for Olympics

“Back then, everyone would say, ‘Oh, only Saina (Nehwal) can win a medal’. Every day we saw news articles that said only Saina can win a medal. I remember back then, Ashwini was very young and she'd say, "How can they say this?" It does affect people.”

“Why should we expect only one medal? Why not five or ten? If there's equal treatment, we can win more medals in the Olympics, especially with the talent we have today,” she added.

- Academy set up to break centralisation of power -

Jwala says her academy in Hyderabad is her way of creating a space that can specifically focus on doubles game, besides also having plans to branch out into other disciplines in the long run.

RELATED| Jwala Gutta questions centralisation of power, launches own academy

Having launched the Jwala Gutta Academy of Excellence in January, the veteran player was all set to inaugurate the 55-acre premises in Gachibowli this month. However, the lockdown has put those plans on hold.

"I wanted to start our summer camp and was a little disappointed. I've focussed on the small details and it's quite fancy to look at. I'll release images on social media soon. There are 14 courts and I've played here and I enjoyed it, so I think others will too," she said.

Jwala says her academy is her way of creating a space that can specifically focus on doubles game, besides also having plans to branch out into other disciplines in the long run.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

 

Jwala says the idea behind the academy came from breaking the very centralisation of power she has unconditionally opposed.

"I got messages like 'Didi, I am not motivated to play anymore' and 'speak up for us.' Point is, I cannot if I do not have a stadium or a facility. The question was - if not his academy in Hyderabad, what's the other option? I didn't get any government support and I didn't want to wait anymore. We sold one of our houses and set it up," she added.

Jwala also extended support to world champion P.V. Sindhu who had a rather ordinary 2019 save the world title win.

RELATED| Jwala says Sindhu's success aided by right support system

“When Sindhu won the World Championship last year, she also had to follow that with many functions and felicitations and other public appearances. She can't avoid it because if she does, she becomes controversial. Even attending this gets people talking on different terms. If I was in her place, I would think of myself and what's good for my career. I would have taken the risk of not obligating myself to skip these engagements. However, I don't know her situation so that’s up to her,” she said.

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