Parupalli Kashyap wants to train at the national camp and believes he deserves a chance to aim for Olympic qualification as World No.23, within striking distance of top-16. Moreover, he isn’t convinced that him joining the camp will imperil Olympic ‘probables’ who SAI want to safeguard.
Meanwhile, this request to be included got fellow player and wife, Saina Nehwal into a sticky situation as she was called indisciplined for allegedly saying she won’t train without Kashyap. The 34-year-old maintains Saina set no such pre-condition, and he is not even looking to coach her, and only spars with her or advises her as a friend and co-player. Arguing that he’s not finished, the senior pro insists there’s enough fuel in the tank and he’s not fading into the night anytime soon.
Has Saina said she won’t train if you aren’t around?
She said nothing of the sort. I thought I deserved to be part of the camp as I am World No.23 and have a chance to qualify but was told camp is only for 8 Olympic probables. So I sent an email to SAI and asked Saina to forward my request too. She made a request on my behalf, as a player. She might have said it’ll be nice to have him and others to spar with. But never said she won’t join camp. It was never a pre-condition, she made no demands. But there was a lot of backlash calling us indisciplined. It had nothing to do with her.
But why ask her to second your request?
Very frankly, I wasn’t sure my email would go through to the authorities – as in they would consider it. I didn’t want the request to land in the trash bin of an inbox. She had told coaches at the outset she’ll join in two weeks after shoring up her fitness.
How has training been outside the camp?
We’re training at another centre behind Gachibowli. Home to training, training to home. It’s basic pre-training to be fit, to be able to get back to high intensity training. There’s no fixed thought process behind it, it’s just fitness maintenance. I waited for two weeks hoping to be included in the camp. I wanted to ask questions about the illogical reasons for being excluded from the ‘probables’. I really like those players, but I think I have a better chance to qualify than Srikanth or Ashwini-Sikki. There’s 7-8 tournaments to play for, why must anyone say I don’t have a chance. Top-16 go through. I’m No.23.
What was the feedback from SAI?
I was told they’ve done the calculations and I won’t make it. I’ve been to the Olympics before and have trained for and played big events, I know what I’m talking about. Their calculations are weird. They might not have belief in me but I’ll back myself if the body holds up.
What reason was offered to you?
They said they wanted to keep the probables ‘safe’. Are you saying other players are out to harm them? Noone’s staying at the academy. They all have gym sessions with other trainers, they go back home. We don’t know who anyone’s meeting over weekends. Are you trying to say these are stringent guidelines which will shatter if I’m allowed to join camp and train? There’s 9 coaches and sparrers and physios and several courts and maximum anyone’s training these days is 3 hours. Noone’s going full intensity 10 hours and it’s three courts for three players right now. Rest of times, courts are empty. Half the probables haven’t come to Hyderabad.
What prompted you to send the letter?
There was an earlier list before this. I wasn’t included in that either. Though I was told I am being funded. But no camp. Then the list changed. Coach Agus has said earlier that whole team should train together. If someone suffers a niggle and goes off for 2-3 days as happens, again there’s noone to spar with. We don’t know who’s making the decisions. I’m close in ranking and don’t want a favour.
It was reported that Saina needs you as coach…
No, she will train under the appointed coaches only. I was only advising her as a friend, a fellow player when I was injured. We were just sparring with each other. It’s unfair if she isn’t asked about this, and it’s presumed. I’m interested in coaching in the future. But right now I have to take care of my playing career. There’s plenty of backlash about how Saina and I should manage our careers, and telling us to be disciplined.
She always said she’ll join when she feels fit and wanted to check if enough sparrers are there. She didn’t put any conditions.
Realistically, how do you see the Olympic qualification chances?
It’s an uphill task. For all of us. Let’s be honest. But I had qualified for London (2012 Olympics) in the last semifinal of the last tournament, so I want to give myself this chance. Also, Olympics is not an end in itself. It’s a great tournament, but it doesn’t define our careers. We play the whole year. I want to win a Super Series, and there are 15-16 of those. World Championships and All England happen every year. I want to continue my career for as long as my body holds up. And I’m keeping my ranking up there, I’m not asking for this when ranked outside 100.
How’s the funding situation?
I’m grateful to BAI for helping me out initially when I got injured. I came back from those in 2017-18. Then the Telangana government has consistently helped me. Travel and other costs included, it’s 2 lakh per tournament, multiply by 15. It’s also physio, taping, trainers. With that help I came back from ranking outside 70 to inside 30. I’ve dealt with ankle, shin, back injuries and know what I’m supposed to do to bring ranking up.
What’s the motivation?
I’m No.23, so clearly I can still win. I have goals – to win Super Series, to qualify for major events. But suddenly there’s hype about Olympics by people who don’t follow the sport day in and day out – the Games by the way I’m in contention for – and everything else is forgotten. All I said was there’s a camp, there are coaches, let me train. Their reply almost seemed to indicate – terko chance nai hai, take it easy.
Is your age against you being considered?
Merit. Simple things should decide these lists – merit. Not my age. I’m told they are making lists keeping 2024 and 2028 in mind. But I’m saying, ‘are you telling me that I can’t do this despite me bringing my ranking to 23 – third in India. Did I ask for this when I was ranked No 50 or 60? I was back in funding list when I entered Top 25 and have been ahead of HS Prannoy and Sameer Verma the whole year. Problem is if anyone asks a question, you are immediately declared ‘indisciplined’ on Twitter.
Do you draw inspiration from Olympics quarters and CWG gold and is there fuel left in the tank?
No that’s in the past. That’s not relevant at all. Look only at my current ranking. There’s a lot of fuel in the tank (laughs) – fuel is gushing in my heart and mind. For the body, I train. Training techniques are wiser and more refined now, which is helping many extend careers into mid-30s. I’m strictly following Gopi Anna’s (Gopichand) plans set out for me last 6-8 months and results were showing.
How’s the game feel inching close to Top 20?
Was match point up against World No.2 Chou Tien Chen in Hong Kong. Kick myself for not converting those, but I was close. There was the Canada Open final, semis at India Open that pushed ranking to Under-30. So World No.23 is not some miracle number. I’ve strung together wins to come back from Top 80 to Top 25. There have been wins against top players – I beat Darren Liew and Jan O Jorgensen at Korea and Kenta Nishimoto. But at this point, progression will be slow unless you are extraordinary. I’m realistic. I’m not extraordinary. I just work very, very, very hard.
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