Hyderabad: For the 39-year-old Aparna Popat, analysing the game, strategies and reading more about the tactical part of the game of badminton is what interests. So, when she turned to commentary after her professional career, it was not at all a surprise. In fact, she feels great to be part of the commentary panel for the Premier Badminton League as it helps her stay in touch with the game.
Speaking on the sidelines of the PBL in Hyderabad, the former nine-time consecutive national champion says that it was a huge challenge for her in the initial stages.
“I am not so expressive as a person. So when I took to commentary it was a challenge. But I enjoy it now,” she said. On choosing it as a profession, she said, “What always interested me about the game was the analysis, reading more of tactical part of the game and strategy. It is a great way to keep in touch with the game.”
Having tried her hand in coaching, she now trains only kids. “I coach very young kids at very grassroots level. I love the sport and love kids. From the bottom of my heart I want more kids to play. Coaching takes care of that and commentary gives the opportunity to keep me in touch with the game and pursue my interest,” she elaborated.
When asked about the impact of the PBL on the game in the country, she said it took the game to the next level. “In terms of external impact like popularity of the game, fans coming in numbers to the stadia to watch, the lucrativeness of it, it did impact a lot. And from the players’ perspective, it gives the Indian young shuttlers a lot of confidence. They get to rub shoulders with the best in the world and spending time with coaches like Fernando Rivas is an experience you will never think of. All this allows players to believe in themselves,” she pointed out.
“PBL represents India in good light. For the growth of any sport we need government and federation support. Badminton is in such a good space now, we have international tournaments in Indian and then PBL. It can’t get better.”
When asked whether they missed a league like PBL during their time, she said, “I am thankful for whatever we got. There are no regrets. There were different times. We made the most of what we had. The game has changed a lot in the last decade. There was not much support back then. Or maybe we didn’t know how to get it. We were experimenting a lot. But it started with Prakash Padukone’s academy. It was the first academy that was set up. Till then there was no concept of an academy. There were private academies. Players used to come there and practice, play nationals and go back. But that academy brought everyone together to practice together. The physical training, the fitness came in. then we started looking at commonwealth and Asian Games medals. But obviously the big boost came when Saina started doing well under Gopi. Then Gopi academy was set up and then things exploded from there on.”
Talking about the top players being asked to compete in the nationals, she said that the move of Badminton Association of India (BAI) was very good. “I think it is fantastic. BAI has been struggling to get this done and they managed to do it last year. If you look around the world, all the players play their nationals. It is just that what we can do is to schedule the tournament at proper time and the facilities should be good. These players are among top in the world and what we have to do is keep up with the facilities we provide them for the tournaments. That is what they are asking for.”
She also feels that this is the year India could win Asian Games medals. “What we are missing is one Asian Games individual medals. We have waited long enough. This has to be the year because of course there is Saina, (PV) Singhu, (Kidambi) Srikanth, (Parupalli) Kashyap and others. But we need doubles players to get medals in team championships. Now there are good players in Sikki and Pranav. We featured in four of five events in last Olympics. That is an indication that there is an all-round development of the game,” she concluded.