More Sainas and Sindhus to Burst on the Scene Soon, Says Pullela Gopichand
Coaches have some of the toughest jobs on the planet, and when it comes to coaching an Indian team, or an individual, the difficulty bar vaults to a different level altogether
A file photo of PV Sindhu and Pullela Gopichand. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: Coaches have some of the toughest jobs on the planet, and when it comes to coaching an Indian team, or an individual, the difficulty bar vaults to a different level altogether.
One could comfortably assume that coaching the Indian cricket team is the hardest job, as the game is next to religion, and is followed by millions in the country. Just a loss can draw a lot of flak. But then, spare a thought for Pullela Gopichand, head coach of perhaps the most followed sport in the country after cricket—badminton.
The man has literally transformed Indian badminton in just a decade, and is now coach to some twenty odd world-class players, that includes the likes of Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth.
There is as much pressure on the coaches to deliver, as on the players. With badminton gaining great popularity in the recent times, the burden of expectations has also increased, and as the chief national coach, it becomes the duty of Gopichand to deliver time-to-time. In fact he has been doing just that, and the records this year just show that.
"There is pressure only as much as you take. Yes, there is no rest for us, and we do feel burdened by the expectations, but we are also motivated to deliver the results with that. Having said that, it's getting tougher each year as, if you lose one match, people start pointing fingers at you. But that has made me realise that each year should be better than the previous one," Gopichand told News 18 Sports at the launch of ELMS Foundation.
A very experienced campaigner, Gopichand exactly knows what his team and players demand from him, in the need of the hour. This year, just before the Indian Open, the men's singles players were going through a rough patch, and their rankings had dropped considerably, especially Srikanth and HS Prannoy. But he invested in players' extra training, that reaped benefits in the latter half of the year. Thereafter Srikanth won four Superseries titles.
"I think that was indeed one difficult time. But I knew all we needed to do was to get good amount of training, and that's where the entire success story lies. We started preparing well for the tournaments, and that too, well in advance. That also helped our case. People see me as a villain if I stop the players from going to tournaments. But you have to understand that it’s very important to train and prepare well. You should space your tournaments well," Gopichand added.
Having given a near perfect year to the fans in the entire country, Gopichand feels that there wasn't any single defining moment in the year, but all the wins were equally important, if taken into perspective.
"It all started for us at the Indian Open where Sindhu beat Carolina Marin. Then it was followed by B Sai Praneeth at the Singapore Open. And then there was Srikanth. So, I guess, it was a progression from one tournament to the other. Then we have Saina and Sindhu reaching the medal rounds of the world championships. So as a coach, I can't make a choice between all of them."
One of the biggest challenges for the Indian coach is to ensure that there are enough players in the ranks, who can take over from their seniors when the situation arises. While the men's singles looks pretty sorted on that front, it is the women's, where the second rung is still not ready.
Fully aware of the shortcoming, Gopichand says,"I think it takes years to produce champions, and we have Saina and Sindhu already, whereas nations like Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia are struggling for even one. We can expect the next crop of players to burst on the scene soon."
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