Hyderabad: Even as India is basking in glory thanks to PV Sindhu’s magnificent show in Tokyo Olympics, the familiar face of Pullela Gopichand is missing. As former international Sanjay Sharma said, one should not forget Pullela Gopichand’s contribution to Indian badminton in the last decade or so. Tokyo Games bronze medallist Sindhu preferred to have Korean coach Park Tae Sang instead of Gopichand, who opted out of the Games for men’s singles coach Agus Dwi Santoso.
“India had always results either in Super Series or Olympics or Asian Games or Commonwealth Games or World Championship. Like PV Sindhu, who has got a medal in all big events, Gopichand had a fantastic tournament record as coach. Be it Saina Nehwal, Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth or Parupalli Kashyap, India met with success with Gopichand as coach,’’ he said.
Sharma added that Gopichand brought self-discipline and self-belief into Indian badminton. “He always believed that the Indians had the skills and through a systematic programme he could bring results in international tournaments. His thinking was simple that if we follow a Chinese or an Indonesian system then the Indian shuttlers can get the desired results. He clearly knew hard work and discipline was the key to success. There were more organized camps. He ensured that players get the best of the facilities.’’
Furthermore the concept of modern badminton academies was the brainchild of Gopichand. “It was an idea that revolutionised Indian badminton where for the first time you had eight courts and a good number of support staff like the physios, dieticians and others. It began to produce a good number of champions and international players.
“Badminton has easily become the second most popular game of the country after cricket. The big wins by Saina or Sindhu or Srikanth or Praneeth has seen young minds taking to badminton in huge numbers,’’ said Sharma.
Praising Sindhu, Sharma said she is now the super star of Indian badminton. “She clearly knows how to win in big tournaments. She is definitely on top but one cannot overlook the achievements of Saina too. She gave a new meaning to Indian badminton and then Sindhu took over from her. In fact, the game has revolved around these two players. Unfortunately, other players like Srikanth, Kashyap or Praneeth were not consistent as Saina or Sindhu.’’
Sharma stressed that Gopichand should continue as coach. “It is a big challenge to bring new big players like Saina or Sindhu. Hyderabad has become the nursery of Indian badminton with so many academies coming up in the city. Saina and Sindhu have become role models for Indian badminton. The next big step is to sustain the momentum.’’
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