Airdropping an international coach into a doubles camp and assuming India will start producing world champions in the paired event might not be the wave of the magic wand India is looking for, reckons departed coach Flandy Limpele. Reiterating that his reasons for leaving are “mainly personal”, the Indonesian coach insisted that doubles badminton in India lacked “care, love and funds.”
“I tried hard to stay, believe me,” he said, adding that he had had a word with the players in December after complaining about their attitude. This conversation had settled the issue. But Limpele remained discontented with the Indian structure that clearly prioritised singles over doubles.
“I’ll repeat, reason for my leaving is personal. Nothing to do with attitude (of players) now, their attitude is going in the right direction after that (last time). That was all fine,” he cleared.
What he sensed in India though was a huge cultural difference in badminton matters. “To add up to the personal reasons, I felt like the doubles department is not favoured here, which I can understand why. But I thought the percentage of importance would be at least 55 / 45 (latter for doubles). But it turns out it’s 70/30. It’s not fair, I think. So that’s why I couldn’t stay longer,” he stressed.
It must be noted that Indonesia, powerhouses of the sport, have produced singles and doubles champions in equal measure. And India, which has never produced top-level talent, consistently presents a very odd skewed picture to coaches from Malaysia and Indonesia who are not used to singles stars being pampered.
“The Indian scene is not fair to the coaches also. Salaries are not equal (coach Agus Dwi Santoso for singles comes for $8000 per month, Flandy was paid $6500 pm), neither do they have equal assessment which I think is not fair, but that’s not the main point. Overall, doubles is nothing like singles,” he lamented.
“So I thought why stay in this situation?”
Asked to elaborate, Limpele added, “There’s less support (funding) for (exposure) tournaments. There are many potential players but support is less. Most of the times doubles seems to have no power to say what doubles needs and wants.
“That kind of stuff is not helping the team grow. But it is what it is. I learnt a lot. It was a good journey,” he said of coaching the Indian pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy – Chirag Shetty to some fine results in Europe last year.
He struck down the speculation that national coach P Gopichand was driving away foreign coaches.
“No, no, he’s a good boss. Him and his family extended every support possible to us at Hyderabad. He’s trying to bring the level up. I had no problems on that front. We worked fine together,” he said, adding that India needs to look deeper into systems which inherently favour singles and their attention-monopolising star system.
When pointed out that doubles had seldom produced consistent results despite many playing on the circuit, he retorted: “You can’t have heroes in doubles if you are going to show less care and love towards it.”
Limpele after making up his mind had sent texts to his doubles wards, and was clear on the path ahead: “All the best to Satwik-Chirag, they have good potential but just need more care, more love, the right attitude and proper team coaches. With them anything is possible. They are good if they really want to work hard. But it’ll take a big effort to achieve top results,” he stressed.
Namrih Suroto, who has been working with the juniors, will now step up alongside the other foreign coach Dwi Kristiawan. “After December when I spoke to players, they have been ok. Gopi was also very supportive of me, but the care shown to doubles is less,” he said of what seemed to be a deal-breaker. Limpele’s mind was made up after the doubles teams pulled out of All England. “No, that’s ok. Players’ parents had genuine concerns because of Corona (virus).
“I’d like to wish Indian team the best and the good part was being with the team through ups and downs, win or lose. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Coaches leaving Indian badminton has always been gloom and doom, but Flandy Limpele would like to stick to the happier memories. “Tik tok fever here in India was funny… And I really liked it,” said the Indonesian, adding that India, relatively a rookie nation in top-rung doubles, will go through these churns before it settles into a system.
‘Agus good coach’
Outgoing doubles coach Flandy said that incoming singles coach Agus Dwi Santoso, a fellow Indonesian, is “a very good coach,” and it was a smart pick by Gopichand and BAI owing to his former assignment. “Agus has worked together with Kim Hi Hyun (earlier PV Sindhu’s coach) and Park Tae Sung (current singles coach) back in Korea,” Limpele said, adding it’ll help him settle into the current system.
While his last assignment was with Thailand, it’s the prospect of reuniting with Park with whom he worked in Korea that spells a good omen. Strategically, it’ll be good for India to have onboard someone who coached Son Wan Ho, the ultra-defensive Korean former World No. 1 and the tall Korean women’s singles player Sung Ji Hyun, elements of whose games can further fortify Sindhu.
Sung had beaten Sindhu at the All England Round 1 last year, but Sindhu has since become World Champion. The coming together of Park, Agus and Gopichand is good news for India, reckons Limpele.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines