Indians should improve their all-round skills

China is undoubtedly one of the super powers in badminton. The Chinese coaches are regarded with awe and there is also a perception that Chinese don't easily part with their knowledge and they have some secret formula for producing champions.

KHALYAN N. ASHOK

China is undoubtedly one of the super powers in badminton. The Chinese coaches are regarded with awe and there is also a perception that Chinese don't easily part with their knowledge and they have some secret formula for producing champions. When one tells this to Jiang Yong Yi, he breaks into laughter and says "I wouldn't be here if that was true." Jiang Yong Yi is among the few coaches in China, who is credited with success in badminton. He has trained players like Han Jian, Yongbo, Wu Dixin and Wang Chen. The coach, with 30 years of experience, is on the panel of the World Badminton Academy and he is also the vice-president of the Shanghai Badminton Association and is attached to the Shanghai Technical Sports Institute. Yong Yi was in Bangalore at the invitation of the BPL Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and spent two weeks in Bangalore and at the Pune Centre of the PPBA. He provided some valuable tips to the wards and coaches of the PPBA. Here are the excerpts from an interview with the ace coach.

Question: How did you find your training stint at the PPBA?

Answer: It was a very nice experience and what Prakash Padukone has established here is an ideal centre for training young players and I had a wonderful time, helping the players and interacting with coaches like Vimal Kumar. I found the boys and girls here very willing to listen and work hard.

What are the drawbacks of the Indian players?

I think the Indian players have good potential. I haven't seen many top Indian national players. But I am impressed with players like Gopi Chand, who played such a brainy game to outwit Chen Hong in the All England Championship in 2001. I won't say that there are big drawbacks. Yes, there are areas for further development. Basically, the Indian build is not conventionally big like the Europeans. The Indians are not quick on the court like Chinese or Indonesians. But they are wristy players and they should work on their speed and play with a lot more variation, like picking the right placements. One aspect, I would like to point out is, there should be a lot more intensity in training and improving the physical endurance. They should improve their all-round skills. Another point I would like to stress is to get the footwork right. In badminton, you not only move up and down but also diagonally. The players should also be mentally tough and fight for every point. The players should give equal importance to doubles as they give to singles. Doubles play a crucial part in team events like Sudirman Cup, Thomas Cup and Uber Cup. All these aspects should be looked into by the coaches and the players here.

Is there any special method of coaching in China?

Even in China, methods vary from coach to coach. But we place a lot of emphasis on speed, power and endurance. Our recent experiences have taught us that those three factors alone are not sufficient, a good player should be able to defend as well. A good defensive player, with a medium height can be a tough opponent. Gong Zhi Chao won the Olympic gold and she was not big built, but she played an all-round game and had great sense of timing and footwork. So, we now aim to developing all-round skills of the players.

Many nations have made strides in the game and the Chinese men are not so formidable as they were. But your women are still the best. Your comments on this.

I think our system should be credited with our success. Not many nations have the kind of government support that we enjoy and there are sports schools around China, where children are trained and Badminton Association scouts for youngsters, who can be potentially good in the game. To give you an Idea, take my city Shanghai for example. Our association there has 10 coaches, and over 40 to 50 players, training with us. There are 15 sports schools. This is in Shanghai alone, you can mutliply that on the big canvas, that is China, you will get the picture of our base in the game. As regards to Chinese domination, I will say that it will continue, given our huge base in the game. The game is one of the popular sports in the country and enjoys fan following. Yes, our men of late, face some tough opposition now, but women have the edge. Unlike other country's women players, the Chinese girls thrive on the game. It brings them money, fame and they are professionally motivated to stay in the game much longer than their counterparts in other countries, who opt for other avocations.

Who do you think is the all-time great from China?

It is difficult to answer as each one belonged to a different period and they faced different challenges, if I were to compare Han Jian or Yang Yang with Chen Hong, it would be unfair to all of them.

Your economy has opened up and was there any tangible benefit for badminton from that development?

Yes, there have been benefits. Earlier, it was only the government that was supporting the game. Now a lot of private companies have started helping the game and there are private sponsors as well for the players.

Coming back to badminton in the Indian context, what more should be done here?

Firstly, you have to create a good base. I would like to see a lot more academies like PPBA and your National Association (BAI) should provide the right direction to young talent and create strong pool of junior players. Secondly, the youngsters should be trained in right basics and should be instilled with good work ethics as regards to the game. They should develop strong stamina, footwork and work hard on the strokeplay under right coaches. Yes, you need a lot more coaches here. There should a system to train coaches.

Is the International Badminton Federation doing enough to promote the game?

They are making an effort, but I am not happy with the slow pace at which the game has spread over the world. In countries like USA, which has a huge financial promise for the game, it hasn't taken off. IBF made some change in scoring system, but reverted back to old scoring pattern. In one of the Asian Games, I watched a women's doubles match which went on for two hours, I just got up and walked out. If that was a reaction of senior coach like me, you can imagine what an ordinary fan will do. The game should be made attractive for the TV audience and the sponsors, then only money will flow into the game. There has to be a change, when and how it will come about, I really don't know.