Rashid Sidek, who played a part in the World No. 1’s rise, talks to Rutvick Mehta.
You’re one of the most experienced coaches in the world. How different is it to coach a team (Krrish Delhi Smashers) in such leagues?
This is my first time in a league. And honestly, it’s not that different. Most of them are good players. So I work on the game plan and strategy. Besides, I’m not here for a long time, just two weeks, so I can’t really work on the technical aspect of anyone’s game. But it’s going really well so far.
PV Sindhu recently stamped her authority by winning the bronze medal at the world championships. Has she caught your eye?
Yes, I did see her play. I think she’s a very good player. She just doesn’t care about her opponent and plays the game to her strengths.
Saina Nehwal has picked up a trend of getting knocked out in the quarterfinals of major tournaments this year. Where do you think she is going wrong?
At times, some players go through ups and downs. In a year, they can peak in only three or four tournaments. They just cannot peak in every tournament. Secondly, most players, including the Chinese, have studied her. Sindhu, for instance, is an upcoming star, but Saina is already there. And I think she is finding it very difficult to maintain that level. The problem, more than anything else, is in the mind.
Is badminton the No. 1 sport in Malaysia?
In terms of international sport, badminton is definitely No. 1. But at the local level, football beats badminton. We have decent infrastructure for the sport, but not as good as China or Indonesia. We’re planning a sports complex for badminton. Let’s see how it goes.
What about Lee Chong Wei’s fan following back home?
Everybody is crazy about him in Malaysia. It’s like Sachin Tendulkar in India. All children want to become like him. He’s definitely an icon there. He’s the World No. 1 and an Olympic medallist.
People wonder why Wei is unable to crack the Lin Dan code. You would know it better than anybody else…
(Laughs) I don’t know either! He goes well prepared for all the encounters, but somehow or the other, luck is always with Lin Dan. Never with Wei! Like in the world championships final recently, he suffered cramps and could not finish the game. I have no doubt at all that if not for cramps, he would have beaten Dan.
A major controversy erupted after that final. The organisers turned off the air conditioning. Did that play to Dan’s advantage?
Yes, it’s very unfortunate. This has happened to us in China many times. The Badminton World Federation doesn’t do anything about it. We had the same experience in China Open. And that’s why, at some level, we already knew it might happen. And it did. It is China’s strategy. That’s because Dan’s likes to play long rallies and tire Wei out. On the other hand, Wei is more attacking. And that is why they switched off the air conditioner to allow Dan to play more rallies, make less mistakes and tire Wei out.