Lately, badminton in India has been on a rise and the credit for that to a large extent goes to national coach Pullela Gopichand. Ever since Saina Nehwal clinching a bronze medal at London Olympics in 2012 to PV Sindhu winning India’s first silver in the sport to most recently male shuttlers’ success in the Super Series event, former All England Badminton Championships winner has played a crucial role in nurturing young talent.
The current pack has improved their world rankings, however, the national coach feels India needs to be strengthened if the country hopes to emulate neighbours China in the sport. “For the number of people who have taken up playing the sport, I will say yes. And hopefully these performances are more consistent. It’s not only my academy, all academies across the country are running full. There are many, many parents who want their kids to give up everything and concentrate on badminton.” Gopichand said when asked if India was on the verge of a badminton revolution.
In recent times, Indian men shuttlers have come out of the shadows of Saina and Sindhu. Leading the group, Kidambi Srikanth has made it into three consecutive Super Series finals and winning the Indonesian Open title and Australian Open. The 24-year old Srikanth has taken his Super Series tally to four with the win in Australia.
When asked if China’s hegemony was over, Gopichand said, “China as a dominant force has been challenged, both in the men’s and women’s. We have been responsible for it. But I think the world championships, the Olympics are the big championships and medals which are critical. When we can beat them at those big events then I feel we can say that.”
The former All England champion credits the focus on fitness for the success of Indian players.. The 43-year old said many years of hard work was finally bearing fruit.
Gopichand believes Indian players need to adapt to a different style of game to beat China at big events. He added, “If we look at the performances in the last few years it has been good. We have been able to work better as a unit and all players have been peaking at the right time. The fitness levels are higher… we were not fit enough to play at the highest level. Technically, we have been good for a long time but in fitness levels, we were lacking.”
Recent results have earned Gopichand the moniker of ‘Super Coach’. However, he feels he will be able to deliver more results if he had more powers as a coach. “I think it’s a huge responsibility… a coach’s job is tough and in India it is even tougher. It’s been 13 years, regular, disciplined work ethic and very little time off to do anything else. And to work 12-14 hours on most days, stressful days. If I were to call that sacrifice, it is. But honestly I have loved each part of the journey and never felt it was a sacrifice.” he concluded.