Danish great Morten Frost will make his long-anticipated entry into Indian coaching after being appointed in a visiting consultant role at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore. The 60-year-old, a longtime friend and former opponent of Prakash Padukone, has been roped in by sports non-profit body Olympic Gold Quest for a 90-day stint spread over four visits, and will fly into Guwahati on Thursday to watch a score of the junior athletes from the academy at the Senior National Championships.
Frost, who won silver at the Worlds twice and was a four-time All England champ, has stayed in touch with the game as a year-round commentator last season on the Super Series circuit, and was persuaded to take up the role that will shape the functioning of the Padukone academy – an important centre grooming the next bunch of juniors.
“He has the right mix of old days’ strengths and the present-day game as he’s in touch with latest developments. Even when he played there were always some good things in the system, which present-day coaches might not realise the importance of. We’ll get the best of both eras,” Padukone said, adding that Frost’s last stint as technical director of Malaysia and being involved in the Danish set-up prior to that, will prove beneficial to juniors.
Padukone is looking forward to suggestions that will help the academy finalise a plan for the next two months. “He’ll be in more as a consultant, can’t be there throughout because he has other commitments. He’ll see all the players at the Nationals in Guwahati and get an idea of what their standard is like. He’ll suggest a way forward after a detailed discussion. He’ll see what we are currently doing on the court, and in the gym, and give a plan for the next two months. Our coaches will implement it and then he’ll come back and review. It’s an ongoing exercise,” he added. Padukone says the two badminton giants of the 1980s didn’t really exchange notes as players. “He was more an opponent in my playing days. We’ve spoken generally now, but I’m looking forward to see how we start out on the process,” he said.
Top on Padukone’s priority list is to ingrain into the trainees the importance of strategy — as a steady foil to the power-speed all-out hitting game, which he reckons is lacking in shuttlers of today. “We’ll stress a little more on strategy. These days, I personally feel a lot of players or coaches tend to focus on developing strokes. We’ll focus more on how to play those strokes effectively. When we played, shot selection played a very important role — how to choose, when to catch the opponent. Nowadays, it’s just hitting. That can be combined with choosing strokes intelligently. We need to develop that skill in players. It won’t happen overnight to train them mentally — on how to hit it stronger, harder, when to hit at all, when to drop, when to clear, when to defend,” he said, adding though that he’d like to wait for Frost to give his inputs. “But before that, he can give his inputs. We’ll go more by his suggestions. The purpose of getting him is – we’ve tried whatever we know, we’d like to know his views now,” he added.
Padukone revealed that bringing Frost in at this juncture worked out well since he was looking for opportunities in India while they searched for a fresh set of ideas at the academy that is teeming with juniors, notably Lakshya Sen, Akarshi Kashyap, Meiraba Meisnam and Kiran George. “This was the best way to begin with for him and us. He’ll simultaneously train coaches. His stints will be anywhere between 3-4 weeks at a go, so he’ll have enough time not only to train players but also coaches,” Padukone stressed.
Besides their lifelong friendship that started when Padukone trained in Denmark, the Indian legend admired Frost for his immense work rate in training and in competition. “A fighter who never gave up as player, he was one of those rare few who played in all tournaments, almost year-round, unlike us, for we would select tournaments. He would play in national, weekend, international tournaments, for he was tough,” he added. With modern-day players operating on packed schedules, it’s an area Padukone sees Frost helping out in.
Viren Rasquinha of OGQ, who has been in talks with Frost over the last year, said the Dane’s involvement at this point is crucial for the bunch at Bangalore’s academy that’s on the cusp of graduating to the senior level. “We have 42-46 players at the academy, mostly juniors. This is a transition phase for many, and they’ll face challenges as moving from juniors to seniors is very tough in physical sports. Morten’s played at the highest level and also been technical director in Malaysia, besides being coach. He’ll help train our coaches also,” he said.
The centre is crucial for the likes of Lakshya – India’s most promising junior with silver at the Youth Olympics and bronze at the junior Worlds. “As he starts playing seniors, we need to figure out if we need Indonesian/Malaysian sparring partners who hit hard. Morten is very clued into the circuit and will guide us on which foreign coaches or sparring mates to bring in and what to look for,” Rasquinha added.