Growing discontent

K. RAMESH BABU

Is it the end of the road for chief National badminton coach and 'tough man' Vimal Kumar?

The Bangalore based coach is toying with the idea of calling it quits after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, if he is not allowed to function on his `terms'. For quite some time, Vimal Kumar was unhappy with the state of affairs in Indian badminton. Known for his dedication and discipline, Vimal never gave room to any sort of laxity from the players and that in turn made him a `tough man' to deal with.

It was only a matter of time, before a vacillating BAI, which runs the game in the country, and the `tough' coach found themselves at loggerheads. And that was over the Aparna Popat issue. BAI included Aparna in the team for the Uber Cup preliminary rounds held recently in Jaipur despite her absence from the national camp held in Jalandhar. Her reason might have been genuine as she cited a wrist injury.

But the way BAI gave her the green signal, without even bothering to ask for a medical fitness report after first stating that she would not be considered, seemed to have upset the coach.

Vimal Kumar had recommended that younger players, who were in the camp and squad, be given a better look-in. BAI seemed to have added to Vimal's frustration when its president V. K. Verma allegedly made a remark that his performance as a coach would be assessed after the Commonwealth Games. Though Verma was quick to deny it, Vimal felt that he had been singled out for `unjust' criticism.

The coach is further dismayed by BAI's silence on a set of suggestions that he had made for a long-term development of the game. "I really don't know why such important issues are not being taken up. And about my own future, I feel that I should really think it over whether to continue or not. I will decide that after the Commonwealth Games when my contract comes up for renewal," says Vimal Kumar.

His exit would certainly be a setback to Indian badminton. Especially at a time when things appear to be bright with a clutch of talented youngsters on the horizon and a slot in the Thomas Cup finals in Japan in May after a long gap of six years.

Kalyan Ashok