Sanjiv Sachdeva’s phone has not stopped ringing for the last two days. With a record 1765 entries coming up for the 26th Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking and Prize Money Badminton Tournament organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust, the former Indian junior chief coach has been overseeing the main draw of the tournament and answering junior players about the match schedule. Two months ago, the 69-year-old returned to coaching when he was made the coach in-charge of the World Junior Badminton Championship bound Indian team which finished sixth in the event held in Indonesia and the coach terms the progress of junior badminton in India a healthy one.
“Six-seven years ago we used to have 15-20 entries in the girls’ category as we struggled sometimes to make the main draw. Today we have got a record 1765 entries for the junior ranking tournament including more than 220 entries in U-17 and U-19 girls’ category. Last month, in a sub-junior tournament, more than 2000 players competed at five different venues. And all this is due to Saina and Gopichand. Nowadays we see players from Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland competing. In terms of talent, I must say Haryana has emerged as one of the top ranked states. Ira Sharma from Haryana became the junior national champion last year and now there are academies coming up in places like Balabhgarh. The reason why countries like China and Indonesia do well is because they have a lot of quantity and talent and same is happening in India,” shared the coach who was Indian chief junior coach from 2000 to 2012 before he resigned.
Having seen players like Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap apart from PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth in their junior days, Sachdeva has been spending time with junior world number 3 Lakshya Sen, world number 11 Kartikey Gulshan Kumar and world number 8 pair of Dhruv Kapila and Krishna Prasad since the last two months. While Sen reached the quarterfinals in Indonesia before losing to Japan’s Kodai Naraoka of Japan, Kumar reached the pre-quarters. Players like Rituparna Panda of Orissa too reached the pre-quarter-finals and Sachdeva counts this as a positive step for Indian badminton. “Last year we were eighth in team standing but this year we finished sixth. Our standards have certainly improved and we are not scared from China and Korea. Lakshya lost a close match and he looked tired. He has good footwork and defense and he needs to add more stamina. Kartikey would concentrate on high toss play but we made him concentrate on flat game also. Players like Rahul Bhardwaj from Karnataka and the doubles pair of Kapila and Krishan showed courage but they would certainly improve with playing more at the international level. Gayatri Gopichand too has good footwork. She is only 14-year-old and she would of course add more strength in the coming years,” added Sachdeva.
In 2010, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth won the singles’ title in the Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking and Prize Money Badminton Tournament in Chandigarh and the coming five years have seen both the players breaking into the top-five players in the world. With a total of six junior ranking tournaments happening in India currently, Sachdeva believes that the players need to plan in a strategic way to emulate Sindhu and Srikanth. “When Viveck Goenka started the tournament in 1991, it was the only junior raking tournament in India. Now we have six ranking tournaments. When Sindhu and Srikanth won here, they were young and lacked the speed to match Chinese. Slowly they included speed and power in their game. And training for more than 100 days at the camp with players of same skill level for 6-8 hours daily also plays a part. That’s how Chinese train. Saina had a different match temperament. She is not scared of playing against Chinese players. But players like Srikanth learnt it step by step. Srikanth was not even playing Super Series few years ago. But then he played in Grand Prix and other tournaments and graduated his game. That’s what Lakshya needs to do. He is ranked close to 100 and playing in Challenge Series and next target should be grand prix,” said the coach who was a recipient of World Badminton Federation meritorious award in 1996.. And the coach also credits the government for the rise. “The government is spending 18 Crore on badminton. There are 46 players in the core group and 9-10 players play in 5-6 tournaments at world level with government support. Before 2008, we would not get even shuttles. Indian players always had the skill but we needed training and power to start winning at the world level,” concluded the coach.