Citing that academies like his own Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy had neither the capacity nor the wherewithal to carry out extensive bone density tests for age testing, Padukone stated that the onus was on the federation or the state association while the country sought to weed out age fudging if the problem had to be practically addressed.
“We don’t intentionally support over-age players, and if the association feels that action should be taken against a player, then they definitely should,” he said, adding though that it was the duty of the association to carry out the expensive tests.
“We select players on talent. And the academy is not aiming to make anyone just a junior or sub-junior national champion. We are a training centre. We aim for eventual success internationally. But we have neither the capacity not the wherewithal to check every player,” he said.
Padukone’s statements are important because his Bangalore academy has focused its operations on grooming juniors, and the legend put into perspective the limitations faced by a training centre even as athletes represent their states at Nationals where the age fudging problems are rampant.
The PPBA had taken a conscious decision to focus on juniors and wrapped up its seniors training programme after the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad met with success in guiding players under the national coach. “Gopi’s doing a good job with seniors. But we kept saying there weren’t enough juniors and not enough centres for grassroots development. So we decided to split responsibility so there was no duplication. It’s also a national centre,” he explained.
Both academies are expected to conduct the International Challenge tournaments next year.
On the sidelines of the Tata Open International Challenge where India’s PC Thulasi will lead the home challenge, Padukone also lamented the lack of depth in women’s singles, although India’s biggest headline makers currently are Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
“I’m not so sure about ladies singles, though men’s singles has very good depth in India and I am very confident about them. But in women’s singles, apart from Saina and Sindhu, there is no one of international class on view at present. The same is true of the pairs events. A lot of work needs to be done in ladies singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. We definitely need to work on it,” he said.
Calling badminton one of the top 3 sports in India expected to grow even more, Padukone said that men’s singles is looking very promising. “I am confident about the depth in men’s singles for the next ten years with so many talented youngsters ready to take over from the likes of P Kashyap once they retire. But the same cannot be said about the women’s singles,” he said.