Pullela Gopichand is a calm crusader who allows his deeds to speak. From the coveted All-England Open Badminton crown as a player to two Olympic medals – a bronze for Saina Nehwal in London 2012 and silver for PV Sindhu in Rio de Janeiro four years later – Gopichand has always preferred to stay out of media glare.
Recipient of the nation’s third highest Civilian Order Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian badminton, Gopichand for once has exploded to express his anguish over the ailing system of Indian badminton that did not allow the Chief National coach to perform his duty of nurturing a better future for the sport and the sportspersons.
A frustrated Gopichand, in an interview to the Outlook magazine has confessed that he has “no control over players”.
Answering a question about how did he plan the training and programming, Gopichand lamented the “ill-defined” system that did allow the coach to perform and deliver. “Unfortunately in India, we don’t follow a system. The role of a chief national coach is purely ornamental. Badminton may be an individual sport but it’s not necessary that training has to be individualistic. China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Denmark are training individual athletes in a team-like environment. We don’t,” Gopichand told the magazine.
“We have no control over how many tournaments a player will compete in. We have largely left workload management to the individual players and it’s not an ideal scenario. There is no plan to identify and nurture talent into world class players. There is no programming of young talents. Players have been left on their own. We need a system that is clearly defined, common for all and everyone knows who is accountable for what.”
The man behind the epochal success of Saina, Sindhu and Kidambi Srikath today feels that the Chief Coach who not very long ago drove India towards becoming a super power in badminton is with “no role, actually”.
“I have no rights whatsoever. The national coach has no meaning, he has no say in selection and planning, no say in selection of coaches and their remuneration. So far, we have brought up players due to sheer push and energy. Until we have a support system, we will not produce top players,” Gopichand slams the system.
Gopichand’s frustration is not unjustified. The top three icons in Indian badminton – Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth – have won nothing significant of late. The void between the class and rankings of the trio and the next best in Indian badminton is yawning. The graph that was going upward when Gopichand had enough administrative muscle to take calls on players training a planning until a couple of years ago is on a consistent downslide today.