Top shuttlers back two-time Asian Games bronze medallist Gandhe for Dhyan Chand award

Pradeep Gandhe “truly deserves” the award in recognition of his outstanding contribution as a player, coach and BAI official, said former and current Indian shuttlers.

Former Indian badminton coach and double-bronze medallist in 1982 Asian Games, Pradeep Gandhe (centre) with the legendary Prakash Padukone (right) and former India cricket captain Ajit Wadekar.


India’s greatest badminton player ever, Prakash Padukone, leads some of the biggest-ever names in the sport including Dinesh Khanna, P. Gopi Chand, P. V. Sindhu and U. Vimal Kumar in recommending yesteryear star shuttler Pradeep Gandhe for the 2020 Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award.

In separate letters of appreciation, all of them as well as London Olympics quarterfinalist P. Kashyap felt that Gandhe “truly deserves” the award in recognition of his outstanding contribution as a player, coach and official in the Badminton Association of India (BAI) in different capacities.

“I felt honoured when these wonderful champions wrote appreciation letters for me,” says Gandhe, who was a contemporary of the likes of Prakash and Syed Modi, even holding his own in men’s singles and doubles events.

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“In our days, most of the Asian Games and CWG (Commonwealth) medallists had to apply for Arjuna Awards. Now it is different. They are mostly automatic choices for the awards. So, in that context, I would be happy if I get some recognition, at least now,” says the champion shuttler, who takes pride in reminding that players of his era were all self-trained, self-planned and learnt from experience without the kind of support the current players have on all fronts.

“Obviously, you cannot compare with modern-day standards – in terms of training, exposure and the scientific backup by way of support staff,” he said in a chat with Sportstar.

Pradeep Gandhe, former Indian badminton coach and double-bronze medallist in the 1982 Asian Games.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


“We were given branded shuttles only when we were in the Indian camp. Otherwise, it was some less popular shuttles for all domestic tournaments. Even we players had to manage so many things including getting clearances from the government for our foreign trips,” says Gandhe.

“Now, BAI chief Himanta Biswa Sarma is very proactive and player-friendly and most of the members are former players. Importantly, the president is open to new ideas for promoting the sport giving a lot of weight to coaches and expert opinion,” he says.

“Definitely, very good. With both the BAI and the government supporting the sport in a big way, things are really good. And I attribute it to the contribution of Gopi as chief national coach. In a way, he ensured that all the players were ‘made in India’ as none of his trainees was sent abroad for training. This is possible because of his commitment, passion and dedication,” Gandhe explains.

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“The other reason being the Premier Badminton League, for which I was, fortunately, one of the brains behind. Like the IPL (Indian Premier League) in cricket, in badminton too you can suddenly see talent emerging from nowhere, even without making a mark in the domestic circuit because of PBL (Premier Badminton League),” he says.

“Earlier there was a huge gap between the Indian national champion and a world champion. Now, even if someone extends the likes of Saina (Nehwal), Sindhu, Srikanth in a national event, imagine the kind of confidence the player will get because of these champion shuttlers’ high standards,” he says.

On the huge gap between the big guns and probable contenders in both men’s and women’s singles in India, Gandhe is not overly bothered. “You have to look at the time someone like a Saina or Sindhu took to make an impact at the international level. So, we have to wait and can’t write off some genuine talent which is available. There are young and exciting players, but a lot of factors come into play if they were to transform themselves into world-beaters,” he says.

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“Look at China and Indonesia, even they are struggling to produce quality players now with the same consistency that they had done earlier. Some of the lesser-known countries are producing champions. Did anyone think a shuttler from Spain like Carolina Marin will make it so big in the sport? So, every nation has to evolve backed by the right system in churning out champion stuff,” Gandhe explains.

“There is big money in badminton now. But we shouldn’t feel jealous. These champions deserve all the adulations which are possible for the kind of sacrifices the parents, players and support staff make. So, these shuttlers deserve all the adulations,” he said.

“Well, for me it was a privilege to be a contemporary of some big names then like Prakash, Modi, Partho Ganguly, Leroy D’Souza. It was a different kind of experience then,” Gandhe recalls.

The champion shuttler of yesteryear traces one of his memorable moments as he looks back. “The then BAI official L. C. Gupta came to the railway station to see me off and quietly put an Rs100 note for winning the all-India ranking men’s doubles title in Jaipur in 1975.

“Those days we played for passion, were on our own. Didn’t feel like even asking for travel fares,” he added.

On his career, Gandhe recalls another interesting phase. “I remember Syed Modi running a high temperature before the start of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Australia. He didn’t play in any event till the open competition began. Till then, I had to play all the matches. So, I was completely drained by the time I reached quarterfinals and missed out the chance of a medal. But I was happy that Modi recovered in time and went on to win the singles gold,” he concluded.

Truly, a forgotten champion shuttler waiting for some recognition, decades after leaving his stamp of class on the sport.

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