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Saina is not the only face of Indian badminton: Jwala

India’s star doubles shuttler Jwala Gutta is known for her on-court aggression that has helped her clinch a host of national and international titles. On Saturday, on the sidelines of the launch of the USD 1 million franchise-based Indian Badminton League (June 24-July 13, 2013), she let it rip against a system she called “unfair and discriminatory.”

Jwala Gutta
Jwala Gutta

Doubles trouble
Gutta, who has been named one of the five Indian icon players for the six-city IBL, said: “Doubles players have done well for India, but have always been discriminated against. Just because Saina (Nehwal) is under national coach (Pullela) Gopichand, that does not make her the ONLY face of Indian badminton. Earlier, there was Prakash (Padukone), then Gopi and now it’s Saina.

Apart from her though, right now, there are doubles players like myself, V Diju, Ashwini (Ponnappa), etc who have helped gain recognition for the sport and country. Diju and myself qualified for the Olympics, something that never happened before. So, this change in Indian badminton is a collective effort,” said Gutta, who will have World No 3 Saina, London Games men’s singles quarter-finalist Parupalli Kashyap, her world championship bronze medal-winning partner Ashwini and rising star PV Sindhu for company as IBL’s icon players.

No felicitation
Citing an example to substantiate her allegation of discrimination, the 2011 World Championship doubles bronze winner said: “In Srinagar earlier this year during a national tournament, Gopichand, (Parupalli) Kashyap and PV Sindhu were felicitated, but no one bothered about Ashwini and Diju, who were also at that tournament. Is this not¬†discrimination? “I was not felicitated after winning a World Championship medal last year. So, when we say such things, people should understand why we are doing so. At the end of the day, it hurts us too,” the Hyderabadi told Sunday MiD DAY.

No grudge against Gopi
Gutta recently spoke out against coach Gopichand, who has been accused of “mental harassment” by doubles player Prajakta Sawant after the latter was barred from taking further part in the national camp on disciplinary grounds. Gutta stood by her comment on Saturday: “I am not taking sides here, nor do I have any personal grudge against Gopi. My only question is that he being the national coach, who also runs a private academy, does that not bring about a conflict of interest? And I want the authorities to answer my question.” Gutta is ranked 21 in the world doubles charts despite the fact that she has taken a break after the London Games.

Lack of motivation
The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth doubles gold medalist signed off, saying something that would disappoint many a badminton lover: “Players in every field need motivation, but unfortunately this is lacking in Indian badminton. If this continues, it’s bad for the future of the sport in our country — particularly in doubles. “I’m not proud to say this, but right now, there is no established doubles player in India after me. I would never want my kids to take up
badminton as I wouldn’t want them to suffer.”

Indian Badminton League details
>> Eight cities — Delhi, Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore — have been shortlisted for six city-based franchises that can be bought in for Rs 3.5 crore as base price

>> Six franchise teams will have 11 players including four overseas players

>> Each franchise to play each other at-least once, with each tie comprising five matches; one men’s singles, one women’s singles, one men’s doubles, one women’s doubles & a mixed doubles match.

>> Base prices are as follows: Indian icon players - USD 50,000, Top 10 foreign players - USD 25,000, Indian Top 20 players - USD 20,000, India’s international players - USD 10,000, India’s national players - USD 5000, India’s junior players - USD 3000¬†

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