Pullela Gopichand’s overworked shoulders might soon be unburdened a little after Badminton Association of India took on board his suggestion to rope in Indonesian Mulyo Handoyo, who coached the legendary Taufik Hidayat to the Olympic gold.
The black shirted upright figure of Handoyo was a common sight courtside on the international circuit when Taufik reached his pinnacle at the Athens Games. In fact, Handoyo is credited with shaping a staggering talent into consistent success, which saw Taufik stay loyal to his coach through his career. With India witnessing a burgeoning of talent in singles in both men and women, and Gopichand stretched when shepherding all those careers, the time was right to look for an experienced hand, and Gopichand zeroed in on Handoyo.
“There are lots of players bursting through the ranks in singles, and I needed an experienced coach who had looked after careers at the highest level,” Gopichand said.
“There’s a bunch of them and it’s difficult to travel with them to all the competitions, sometimes all at the same time,” he explained. India currently has six players in the men’s singles top 50 apart from Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, who at 21 is still young and at the start of a career that will demand detailed attention. Besides her, there’s K Srikanth, a talented shuttler in desperate need of close guidance to hit the next level as well as those like P Kashyap and Sai Praneeth who could do wonders if they had a dedicated coach looking into nitty gritties of their schedule as well as on court strategising. Those like HS Prannoy and Sameer Verma could do with somebody to egg them on for that burst of confidence, while Rituparna Das and Ruthvika will need a leg up in the coming four years.
On Handoyo, Gopichand stressed that the Indonesian would bring with him years of knowledge of grooming top grade shuttlers. “His knowledge of handling players and taking them to the next level is worth its weight in gold,” the national coach added.
Indonesians have formed some great associations with Indian shuttlers, with the elderly Atik Jauhari having helped out in pushing the first batch at the Gopichand Academy of Saina Nehwal and Kashyap to the next level. “Typically Indonesian coaches are fuss-free and easy to work with, have great knowledge and are friendly. They mingle well,” he said adding that his personal interaction with Handoyo had yielded great insights that can help Indian badminton.
“While I still believe India can produce own coaches, it will take time to have a system in place,” he insisted.
Handoyo began his coaching career in 1982 and enjoyed a memorable stint at Cipayung in Jakarta since 1995. Though he was with Singapore from 2001-4, Handoyo is credited for training Taufik to all his successes including 2004 Olympics gold, 2006 Asiad gold and the World Championship. Early this year he told young shuttlers at Jakarta, “Never despair and complain, and especially don’t be lazy about exercise.”
Should SAI approve of this appointment, India’s simmering talent stands a chance to explode at the biggest stage, even as some burden is eased from the multi-tasking un-cloneable P Gopichand.