For the Indian tennis coaches, Dronacharya is only a character in the Mahabharata.
In the 35 years since the inception of the Dronacharya award for coaching excellence by the Union Sports Ministry, not a single tennis coach has been deemed fit for the award. More than a hundred coaches have won the award in 23 disciplines including kabaddi, kho kho and powerlifting.
Athletics (26), boxing (17), wrestling (14) and hockey (11) have swept most of those awards.
When the guru of gurus, Akhtar Ali - the coach of the team when Ramanathan Krishnan took India to the Davis Cup final, and a travelling coach for another ace, Vijay Amritraj - applied for Dronacharya, he got the Arjuna award! Thereafter, a whole bunch of eminent coaches like Nandan Bal, Enrico Piperno, T. Chandrasekaran and C. V. Nagaraj, have applied and repeatedly been disappointed.
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Coaches who tell their wards to never give up, have not been able to practice it when it came to the award. They all look to have given up, as fait accompli. Otherwise, it is hard to understand that there is only one application from tennis for the regular Dronacharya this time.
Of course, some of them have hope in the other category of ‘lifetime achievement’ in coaching.
Chandra Bhushan, whose name figures in the list of nominations from tennis, was the coach of the team when Prithvi Sekar and Jafreen Shaikh won the Deaflympics bronze. Jaidip Mukerjea was the captain of the tennis team when Leander Paes won the singles bronze medal in the Atlanta Olympics.
On par with shooting
The most successful sport in the country, shooting, has managed to eke out only two Dronacharya awards so far. Prof. Sunny Thomas, who played a big role in setting up a strong foundation, got the award long before Rajyavardhan Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang won the Olympic medals. Many names proposed, including those by the Olympic champion, could not make the breakthrough.
Sanjoy Chakraverthy, who had played a significant role in building world-class shooters like Anjali Bhagwat, Deepali Deshpande and Suma Shirur, was given the award in 2017.
Multiple Asian Games gold medallist Jaspal Rana, who guided young shooters to be world beaters, is the only coach whose name figures in the nominations list from the sport this time.
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With only two awards between shooting and tennis over the years, cricket (seven), weightlifting (four), badminton (four), kabaddi (four), billiards and snooker (four), volleyball (three), table tennis (three) are ahead. Judo (two), gymnastics (two), swimming (two), rowing (two), archery (two) and chess (two) are on par with shooting.