The allegations of bias and favouritism levelled against National coach P. Gopichand following the selection of his daughter Gayathri Gopichand in the Asian Games squad was something Indian badminton could have done without, feels legend Prakash Padukone.
“It should have been avoided,” Padukone told Sportstar on the sidelines of the IIMB Alumni Association’s IIMBue Annual Leadership Conclave. “It has come after a long time. So many good things have happened for Indian badminton and in the last two to three years there hasn't been any negativity. It was not required.”
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The Indian women’s squad for Jakarta will have six singles players and four doubles specialists. The selection of youngsters Akarshi Kashyap and Gayathri as extra singles players instead of a third doubles pair prompted Aparna Balan, a doubles exponent, to cry foul. While refusing to cast aspersions on the decision makers, Padukone conceded there were no straight answers.
“You can argue both ways. For the youngsters it’s more for exposure. But there is no specialist doubles pair as a standby now. We have to make one of the singles players play doubles [in case of an injury]. This was a question of interpretation. I think they have been fair. There was no conflict of interest as such. There is a selection committee and meetings have been held. Everybody's views have been taken and it’s a majority decision. I don’t think one person has [made the choice].”
The former All-England champion in fact gave his thumbs up to the rejigged selection process. Starting from the Thomas & Uber Cup, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) has introduced selection tournaments to pick players which ensures that along with international ranking, domestic performances count too.
“I am personally in favour of it. People should be selected on present form. They have done the wise thing by excluding top players. Everybody else needs to compete. Earlier, it was more subjective. Only those in the core group would get an opportunity to play. They will never play any domestic tournament. In this, you do well in two selection tournaments, you get to play two events and then the selection tournaments happen again. So nobody is guaranteed a place [forever].”
To what extent the changes will prove right remains to be seen but Padukone was confident of a decent showing at the Asian Games. In the 2014 edition, India won a bronze in the women’s team event, the country’s first medal since 1986 Seoul, while Syed Modi remains the only individual medallist (bronze, Delhi 1982).
“We have done well at all the important events. We have done well even at the Olympics. But it will be tough because most of the top badminton playing nations are from Asia. It is almost like the Olympics or the World Championship.
“You have to beat two good teams to win a medal especially if you are vying for gold or silver. This is more so in a team event. You need to be good in both singles and doubles but below Saina [Nehwal] and [P. V.] Sindhu there is a fairly big gap. So it won't be easy."