Prajakta Sawant - Estranged, embattled, determined!

After reckoned a young talent promising much, a strain in her relationship with her coach Pullela Gopichand proved life-changing. It transpired into a court case involving her, the coach and the Badminton Association of India (BAI), her career scuttled, course-changed.

Since the court case, Prajakta Sawant (L) has partnered with Arathi Sara Sunil, then with Aparna Balan (in picture), and now plays with Sanyogita Ghorpade.    -  Akhilesh Kumar

Prajakta Sawant’s is a story of coping with and overcoming estrangement. After reckoned a young talent promising much, a strain in her relationship with her coach Pullela Gopichand proved life-changing. It transpired into a court case involving her, the coach and the Badminton Association of India (BAI), her career scuttled, course-changed.

After years of legal battle, everything’s back to normal, according to her. Speaking to Sportstar on Saturday, she said the court case has been dismissed and she’s in good terms with her coach and the BAI. She hoped that she gets considered and included in the National team.

“I’m done with it (her legal battle). I’m in good terms with my coach and the BAI now and I really hope that I get considered and selected for the National team hereafter. Even if I don’t, I wish to get a proper reason.” 

It started in November 2012 when she filed a case with the Bombay High Court alleging Gopichand of causing “mental harassment” after she was refused entry to the All India National coaching camp in Hyderabad then. According to her, she wasn’t in the reckoning for the National team thereon, found it hard to get doubles partners, and found patronage from the New Vision Badminton Academy (NVBA) in Kuala Lumpur. 

She’s been frequenting the academy since 2014, getting sponsored by it. She’s also been playing in the Malaysian league. “With no support from the BAI, it was difficult. I participated in whatever tournaments my club and I could afford.

“It’s too difficult to stay away from family most of the time, and to struggle for sponsors.” 

Since the court case, she played doubles predominantly, and kept playing the National championships. She partnered with Arathi Sara Sunil, then with Aparna Balan, and now plays with Sanyogita Ghorpade. 

It was in 2016 that her now successful mixed doubles partnership with Yogendran Khrishnan started. Yogendran runs the NVBA.

In between, she appealed to the court seeking sponsorship from the BAI for her participation in some International events. 

She said she was called to attend a National camp by the Malaysian Tan Kim Her after he took over as the National doubles coach. “I attended a one-month camp in October 2015, was included in the National team for the Bahrain International Challenge, only to be excluded without reason around two days before the event.”

Believing she has done well in the year gone by, she expects a National team call-up.