Indian badminton has been growing from strength to strength in recent times. Apart from World No 2 Saina Nehwal, 17-year-old PVV Sindhu is poised to enter Top 10 within the year. among the men, P Kashyap has cracked into the Top 10 already and is placed at No 6 at the moment, ahead of four other Indian male shuttlers in the Top 50. Saurabh Verma, Prannoy, Sai Praneet, Anand Pawar, Ajay Jairam, etc are all making waves at the world level.
Surely there must be a number of things that the badminton Association of India (BAI) is doing right. And credit for this must go to BAI president Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta
In an interview with MiD DAY, Dr Gupta speaks about future initiatives the association plans to take to ensure Indian badminton is on top of the world.
Given that Indian badminton has been doing really well globally recently, what is the main thrust of the BAI in the next few months?
Our priorities are to maintain this momentum of development and improve the standard of our game with the aim of winning more medals in major events coming up early next year namely, the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Sudirman Cup, etc. The thrust will be to build a strong second string of players, who will be on par with the top core group of shuttlers. My emphasis is to make a strong bench strength, which can step into the shoes of the established players at a moment’s notice. We have envisaged a proactive development plan which will create a strong junior and sub-junior base, so that our next generation of players rub shoulders with the very best in the world.
BAI has opted to host a big event like the Thomas/Uber cup in New Delhi next year. How confident are you of a good performance from our teams?
I am very sure that we will be one of the top teams in both the Thomas as well as Uber Cups here next year. Our coaching programme under chief coach Pullela Gopichand is doing extremely well. Both Saina and Sindhu will be leading our challenge in the Uber cup with Ashwini Ponappa and Jwala Gutta providing back-up in the women’s doubles. I am sure we will have three or four more good singles players among the ladies. Saina and Sindhu have already defeated some of the top players in the world. Home advantage will give them a major boost. In the Thomas Cup too, with P Kashyap doing so well and Jairam, Saurabh, Anand and others also beating better players, we are well placed. We have almost a year to go and that’s good enough to ensure that our Thomas Cup team gets into top gear.
We have not been doing too well in the doubles aspect? What steps will BAI take to ensure we have some top-class pairs for next year’s Thomas/Uber cups, CWG and Asian Games?
A special programme will be launched soon to improve the standards of our doubles players at the sub-junior and junior levels as part of our long-term developmental focus on the game. There will be a talent hunt, after which this lot will be trained by top coaches not only from India but from abroad too. I believe that at all the major events next year, we must have doubles as a significant component. We will not be called a world power, if we cannot excel comprehensively as a team. So, it is imperative to do well in all paired events too. BAI will do everything professionally possible to plug this loop-hole.
Tell us about the much-awaited BAI initiative — Indian Badminton League (IBL)?
We have initiated the IBL to provide more opportunities and better appearance and prize money to our top players. The IBL will also be a milestone in world badminton as it will be the first of its kind event. It will help generate a major awareness in the country about badminton and that in turn, will help BAI get more sponsorship which will eventually benefit our hardworking players. Our top youth players will also be part of teams in IBL and they derive good experience from it.
Speaking of increasing the popularity of the game, what else needs to be done to ensure badminton gets due recognition in India?
We are blessed to have some wonderful players right now. I don’t around four or five years ago, many would have expected Indian shuttlers to rub shoulders with their Chinese and Korean counterparts in singles events, but that’s exactly what has happened. And unlike the past wherein we just one Natekar or a Padukone or a Gopichand — all lone rangers — today we have a handful of players who are all world beaters, thanks to the BAI’s progressive policies. We plan to bring more international events to India so that the domestic circuit is strengthened and many of our players get opportunities to compete in such events. BAI is looking also at aggressive publicity through social media like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. We will also ensure better prize money in domestic events across all quarters and also increase the number of domestic tournaments.