Indian badminton hit a few speed-breakers this year when headlining achievements combined with inconsistent performances from some of its leading players to end on a mixed note. Still, India is poised to field its strongest badminton contingent at the Rio Games next year and heading into the home stretch of Olympic qualification, national coach Pulella Gopichand is keen to oversee all pieces of the puzzle fall into place before August.
Speaking at the launch of a shuttle facility in the capital, the former All England champ talks about what his leading men’s singles players need to do to come upto scratch for securing Olympic qualification – how Kashyap needs a mindset mend and Srikanth, a rejig of his gameplan. The 42-year-old also hinted at how the newly introduced Trump Match rule could spice up contests in the Premier Badminton League.
On chances at the Olympics
It looks like we will have a big contingent at the Olympics and if things go well, we will use our maximum entries at every event at the Games. Of course, there are other events leading up to the Olympics be it the Thomas/Uber Cup or the Indian Open GP, Super Series or the All England. These are important events en route to the Games which will help us understand where we stand and how we are prepared. We have been guilty of not being consistent this year, all of our players. And I hope that is a problem that we can address.
Two men at Rio singles?
Hopefully. One-fourth of the qualification period is left between now and April end. So it’s a lot of time and lot of things can happen even though I hope we have our strongest team there. I don’t want to speculate, though.
On Kashyap’s injury
I think he has recovered and started training fully. He should be ready for the league.
On Kashyap’s training
He is confident with his training and he needs to change his mindset to say that ‘even if I train a little less, I can do well in a match’. But that’s a call we will have to take with every athlete as they age and that’s the case with Kashyap as well.
On Srikanth’s form
End of the year seemed a lot better. The Indonesian Open gave glimpses of where he could be. That’s a good thing to start off with because some of the matches he won were really one sided where he really thrashed the opponent, which was good to see. Yes, he is a young player and has been going through a lot…got these really big victories early on but then everyone started figuring him out. So it’s time for him to adapt, change over, get new strokes and new thinking to his game to ensure he can ward off the pressure, which I guess made him lose a few matches last year which he normally should have won.
On pressure and Srikanth
He is 21-22, so it’s ok. He has time to learn. He has enough strokes in his armoury and has a lot of talent. There are problems but they can be overcome.
He was somebody who played particular kind of game with very little back up at the other end. At the higher level if the opponents see weaknesses they ensure they capitalise on it and that’s what has happened. Many of the younger players may not be able to employ the plan. But some players at international level have enough in them to make most of it.
It’s been particularly good. End of the year to have couple of challengers is a good thing to have. Good progress, they haven’t won a Super Series or GP Gold enough but GP is good. Hopefully, they will progress from here.
On the trump match in IBL
What now happens is that almost every match is decided in the fifth tie. So spectator interest remains and a player will have to take responsibility and say I will pull out that match. So you will have more team strategies because you only have two trumps in the tie.