Mumbai: India’s chief national coach Pullela Gopichand said that though the 2016 Rio Olympics potentials have been taken care of, he rues the lack of a structured junior program for shuttlers in the country.
“The Badminton Association of India (BAI) and the government need to delve a little deeper and look beyond the existing top players. We are taking care of 2016 potentials, but we need to ensure we have funds to run a youth program and a senior program simultaneously. It’s time we start to have a roadmap for 2020, 2024, 2028 (Olympics). To produce good coaches is also the need of the hour,” said Gopichand.
The 2001 All England champion added that though it is premature to talk about the Olympic qualification, he said that there are chances of more than one medal at the quadrennial event. “I think the ideal thing for us right now is to get maximum qualification till March-April next year. We have a chance for a medal in three categories – women’s singles, men’s singles and women’s doubles,” he said.
Compared to the women shuttlers, their male counterparts like World No 4 K Srikanth, World No 8 Parupalli Kashyap and World No 12 HS Prannoy have lacked consistency. Gopichand attributed this to inexperience. “If you see the people who are performing like Lin Dan (32) and Lee Chong Wei (33), they are above 30. Comparatively, our players like Srikanth (22) and Prannoy (23) are in their 20’s and lack experience. They are also playing different styles too often and do not get a chance to adapt. Today, Kashyap is playing the best badminton of his life. It’s only a matter of time before he comes out with something special,” said Gopichand.
Saina Nehwal overtook Spanish Carolina Marin to regain the World No 1 rankings despite losing to her at the recently concluded final of the badminton World Championships. Nehwal’s former coach Gopichand praised her achievements and said, “What Saina is achieved is phenomenal.”
Talking about his current protege PV Sindhu, who is ranked no 14 in the world, he said that she will take two to three years to top the world rankings. “Taller players tend to take a longer time to mature. What is good in Sindhu’s journey is that when she is down and people start doubting her ability, she comes up with a very good performance. Sindhu is just 20 and coming back from an injury and beating Li Xuerui at the World Championships was commendable. She lacks ability and experience. I will give her two to three years to reach the top,” he said.