Veteran coach Sanjiv Sachdeva recalls his time developing badminton culture in Chennai

The 75-year-old for SAI Chennai coach was instrumental in the inception of Krishna Khaitan Memorial tournament, which was one of the most successful junior ranking tournaments that were conducted in Chennai for more than a decade.

Published : Dec 20, 2023 17:34 IST , GUWAHATI - 4 MINS READ

Sanjiv Sachdeva at Senior National badminton championships in Guwahati.
Sanjiv Sachdeva at Senior National badminton championships in Guwahati. | Photo Credit: K. Keerthivasan

Sanjiv Sachdeva at Senior National badminton championships in Guwahati. | Photo Credit: K. Keerthivasan

Chennai wasn’t always a hotbed for badminton enthusiasts. Back in 1976, it was a barren landscape for the sport, devoid of facilities, proper guidance, and national-level talent. Enter Sanjiv Sachdeva, a Sports Authority of India coach armed with unwavering dedication and a vision to change the game.

“When I joined NIS Patiala, my first posting was in Chennai in 1976. The sport was not popular then. I started going to a few districts and did a few summer camps. Badminton slowly came up in Tamil Nadu. There are so many good players from Chennai now. It was because of the base we set,” Sanjiv, who retired from SAI (Chennai) in 2009, told Sportstar here on Wednesday, during the 85th Senior National badminton championships here on Wednesday.  

The Krishna Khaitan Memorial tournament was one of the most successful junior ranking tournaments that were conducted in the city for more than a decade. Sanjiv was instrumental in the it’s inception.

“When the mother of Vivek Goenka (he was then the Chairman of Indian Express) passed away, I asked Vivek whether we could conduct a badminton tournament in her memory. He said, ‘Why not?’”. I became the Organising Secretary of the tournament. We held the tournament from 1991-2009,” recollected Sanjiv.  

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Chennai, he said, despite the lack of a proper system, produced quite a few talented players. “We had very good players in Ajit Haridas, Sandesh Chowta, Prabhakar and Vandana. There were no proper facilities, equipments and we didn’t have a proper indoor stadium. We used to practice at the University Union Indoor Stadium for a few hours. Despite constraints, we grew,” said Sanjiv.  

There were quite a few hurdles in conducting the Krishna Khaitan tournament as sponsors were hard to come by. When Sanjiv asked for help, former Indian star Prakash Padukone did his bit.  

“Prakash helped me. He used to pick me up from the Bangalore Railway Station. We approached BPL and TVS for sponsors. Former National champion Vimal Kumar too motivated me to find sponsors,” he said. 

As the Chief National coach (juniors) from 2000 to 2012, Sanjiv travelled for tournaments and camps all over the country and put it to good use in training the youngsters in Chennai.  

The current growth in Indian badminton, Sanjiv owes it to Gopi Chand, Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu. “At this point in time, Saina won the world junior title and Commonwealth Youth Games both in 2008. She also bagged the Philippines Open crown in 2006. I’ve learnt a lot from Saina, Gopi and Prakash. They are great people,” he said. 

After moving to his home state Haryana in 2009-10, Sanjiv ensured that the Krishna Khaitan memorial tournament moved to Chandigarh. He became the organising Secretary of the tournament for eight years before the tournament moved to Panchkula. 

“We are holding Krishna Khaitan in Panchkula for three years. We have 10 courts with air-conditioning facilities. Haryana has lots of players. But most of the players go to either Gopi Chand Academy or Prakash Padukone Academy,” he said.  

Having organised Krishna Khaitan for more than three decades, Sanjiv said there is a need to streamline the age group tournaments further. “Nowadays, there are so many entries in all junior tournaments. We should have more National and state camps for juniors. Mainly, there should be a separate tournament for u-15 and u-17 players. We shouldn’t hold them together,” said Sanjiv, who continues to be a member of the Indian junior selection committee.  

The 75-year-old hands his hands and mind full. He is now the badminton consultant in the Haryana Government’s sports department, and is quite occupied in conducting Krishna Khaitan in his role as Competition Director.  

Having settled in Chandigarh, Sanjiv still has fond memories of Chennai. “I really miss Chennai. I had some of the best time in the city. There are very good people and we did produce quite a few excellent players,” he remarked. 

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