COVID-19 situation worrisome but I need more players to train India for Olympics says Santoso

India’s foreign coach for badminton, Agus Dwi Santoso, says he will not be able to implement his plans with only four shuttlers at his disposal, and wants the Sports Authority of India to allow more players in the national camp.

He admitted that the COVID-19 situation remains worrisome but said they will have to adapt to it.

The nodal sports body had allowed the camp for eight Olympic hopefuls following approval from the Telangana government on August 1 but only four are currently training at the SAI-Pullela Gopichand Academy.

“The current situation is still a worry but we have to adapt and live with the virus. We have been following the protocols of the government but I need more players to implement my plans,” Santoso told PTI.

He has been hired to work with the top singles players.

Out of the eight Olympic hopefuls, only world champion PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth, women’s doubles specialist Sikki Reddy and former world no. 1 Kidambi Srikanth are currently attending the camp.

Former world no. 1 Saina Nehwal has still not joined the national camp and is training at a separate facility with husband Parupalli Kashyap and a few others, who are not part of the camp.

Satwiksairaj Ranki Reddy, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, is at his home in Amalapuram in Andhra Pradesh, while his men’s doubles partner Chirag Shetty is lodged in Mumbai.

Ashwini Ponnappa has preferred to stay in Bangalore and train at the Padukone-Dravid Centre of Sports Excellence.

“I understand SAI’s decision to allow eight players for the camp in this pandemic but only four players are training. I need more players of the same level, quality players because badminton is a mind game, it needs teamwork,” Santoso said.

“It has been few weeks and we are still training a few players and that is not good. It is important to train as a group so that players can compete hard and help each other. A healthy competition is important.

“I hope for support from SAI in getting more players to train. Once we have that, we would be in a better position to prepare and do well in tournaments including the Tokyo Olympics.”

Talking about India as a badminton nation, the Indonesian coach said the country is full of gifted players.

“India has a lot of talented and gifted players. But the chances of a medal at the Olympics depends on a lot of things. I am happy with the support and freedom that I have to train players.”

Santoso, who was working with the Thailand national team before joining the Indian set-up in March, said it will take time for players to adjust to his training regime.

“It all depends on the players. I am still new here, so I need to understand the players more and they have to understand me,” he said.

“I know they are past champions but they have different characters and they will take time to adjust to a new coach.”

Santoso was roped in mainly for the Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed to next year due to the raging pandemic.

“I have no problem with the delay of the Olympics. I see it as a positive because my players have more time to prepare. So my focus is on the preparation for the Olympics,” he signed off.

India’s next assignment is the Thomas and Uber Cup Final, which is scheduled to be held from October 3-11. The team is yet to be announced for the tournament.