Former All England champion believes World No 12 needs a little more experience to become the best in the world in two-three years
Former All England champion Prakash Padukone is concerned about the lack of depth in women's singles compared to Indian men. But the legendary shuttler feels that World No 2 Saina Nehwal and World No 12 PV Sindhu are more consistent compared to their male counterparts like World No 9 Kidambi Srikanth and World No 14 Parupalli Kashyap.
Prakash Padukone at the press conference to announce the Tata Open India International Challenge 2015 at Cricket Club of India yesterday. Pic/Shadab Khan
During an event to announce the 8th edition of the Tata Open India International Challenge, Padukone spoke to mid-day about the increase in the popularity of the sport and other issues related to it. Excerpts:
On the lack of depth in women's singles and consistency:
Apart from Saina and Sindhu, there aren't many players of international standards at present. The same is true of all the paired events — women's doubles, men's doubles and mixed doubles. A lot of work needs to be done, especially in ladies singles. Currently, compared to men, it is the women players who are more consistent. If you see, the men register a win over a big name and win one title. Then there is a gap. They are beating higher ranked players, which means that they have the talent, but lack consistency compared to women. The male shuttlers need to not just look at winning one or two titles. But they need to plan their tournaments a little better. They need to rework their tournament schedule so that they can peak most of the time.
On whether PV Sindhu will be No 1 in three years' time:
Sindhu is a very talented player. She is young and definitely has the potential to be the No 1 soon. But she needs a little more experience to get there for which she will take another two to three years. With the kind of backing that is present for the players in the form of government and private support, sponsorships, TOP scheme, I am sure it is not impossible for Sindhu to achieve her aim of being the No 1 in the world.
On Saina Nehwal's decision to shift base from Hyderabad to Bangalore:
The move has definitely helped her. More than anything else, the personal attention that Vimal (Kumar) is giving her has helped her a lot.
On improvements that Saina and Sindhu need to make:
Saina needs to improve a bit tactically. She should have an alternate plan where she plays the right strokes at the right time and not get comfortable in playing her natural game. Sindhu needs a little more maturity and experience. Then she should be fine.
On the issue of overage players in badminton:
Our academy — Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bangalore — has completed 20 years of its existence and we are totally against age fudging. We are a training center where we groom talented players. The onus of verification of the correct age of players is not our responsibility, but it is the state associations and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) who need to keep a tab and take corrective measures.
On his decision to make the PPBA a training center for junior shuttlers:
It was a conscious decision to shift our focus to the younger age groups so that there is no duplication with the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad which caters to the seniors. Gopi (P Gopichand) is doing a great job with the seniors. We felt that it is better if we split our responsibilities and concentrate more on the junior shuttlers. We will take a long time to produce results, but I am sure it will pay rich dividends
On popularity of the sport and talent coming in from smaller centers:
There is a lot of talent (among boys) in the smaller centres, which is a very good sign for the growth of the game. According to me, badminton has to be ranked in the top three sports in India based on popularity, standard and new courts. We are on moving in the right direction.
World No 35 B Sai Praneeth will be the top seed at this year's USD 15,000 Tata Open India International Challenge tournament, to be held at Cricket Club of India from December 9-13. In the women's category, it will be World No 37 from Malaysia, Jing Yi Tee who will be top seed.
This year's event will see around 200 shuttlers from nine countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Uzbekistan and host nation respectively taking part across various categories.
In men's doubles, the pair of Thien How Hoon and Khim Wah Lim of Malaysia has been given the top billing, while Thailand's Chaladchalam Chayanit and Phataimas Muenwong will be top seeded pair in the women's doubles.