Indian badminton’s specialist doubles coach Flandy Limpele, from Indonesia, has flagged “bad attitude of some players” in the country’s elite camp, and warned that it is not conducive to the growth of the doubles discipline. He also said it was one reason why “three previous foreign coaches left before their contracts ended.”
“I could probably feel what the previous coaches felt, because this attitude thing is so unique in India. Plus it looks like foreign coaches ending their contracts faster is a common tradition, so it will be nothing new to me,” he said.
In an interview to Indonesian website indosport.com, Limpele had hinted that he may suffer the same fate as his compatriot, Mulyo Handoyo, and Korean, Kim Ji Hyun, the former singles coaches of top Indian shuttlers who quit before their contracts expired. “It could be that I will also experience things like coach Kim and Mulyo, there are already signs. It’s tradition, so no one wants up to 4-5 years,” he had said.
Handoyo has been credited with the success of K Srikanth, Sai Praneeth and H S Prannoy, while Kim was at the courtside when P V Sindhu won her first World Championship final earlier this year.
When asked to elaborate, Limpele told The Indian Express: “Some players are individualistic. There is lack of team work and they only care about individual self. In doubles, you can’t do that.”
The 45-year-old, who trains India’s top pairings in men’s, women’s and mixed doubles, including Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponappa, Sikki Reddy and Pranav Jerry Chopda as well as a clutch of second-tier pairings, did not, however, name the players whose attitude bothered him.
“Some players in this camp have bad attitude, I don’t know why that happens. But I think maybe it’s been like that for a long time and it looks like this habit could turn into the culture in the camp,” he said.
“I’m trying to change (this culture) because it’s not good to have individualistic players in doubles. I want to slowly change this, hopefully it will work. But if it doesn’t and (this is) the way they want it, then no foreign coach will be willing to stay longer,” he warned.
He said nobody had been disrespectful to him yet, but added that Indian shuttlers lacked gratitude towards foreign coaches. Asked if bad attitude meant being lax in training, or not being receptive to ideas, or not working hard enough, he said, “Yes, all (of those). But including respect and appreciating coaches.”
Limpele — who has been assigned the task of taking a shot at a doubles medal for India at Tokyo through Satwiksairaj-Chirag, India’s most exciting pair — said he wanted to flag this early as the country was laying the foundation of excellence in doubles, where India has rarely done well internationally on a consistent basis.
The Indonesian was roped in as a consultant expert coach and technical advisor in August for a monthly remuneration of US$ 5,500.
India had a Top 10 mixed doubles pairing in Jwala Gutta-V Diju in the last decade; Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa won a World Championship bronze in 2011. Ponappa led India to its first CWG team event gold in 2018, shouldering the responsibility of a bulk of the doubles matches, under former Malaysian coach Tan Kim Her, who moved to work with Japan.
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But Indian pairings have always struggled to make medal contention grade on a regular basis, till this season when Satwiksairaj-Chirag won the biggest men’s doubles title for an Indian pairing at Thailand and surged into Top 10 on the back of some breakthrough results in the last three months. The national camp also has the next rung of doubles shuttlers, who, while coming up, help the top pairing as sparring mates too.
It must be noted that the Indonesian juggernaut — they have been powerhouses in doubles for many decades — has rolled on a strict national camp system, where top pairings train together and push each other to get better, while maintaining the camaraderie. The current World Nos 1 and 2 are from Indonesia.
Limpele hinted that he expected discipline from the entire group, putting the nation’s interest ahead of their own individual careers. “It’s how things work in all Asian countries where players are not individualistic and obey the system. Everywhere except India,” he said. “But I will try to change this attitude problem and make them better players.”
(Pictures of PV Sindhu and Jwala Gutta were inadvertently used with an earlier version of this report. The error is regretted.)