BENGALURU: It may appear a strange sight to the uninitiated. A game of badminton is on. Against one player on one side of the court, there are four on the other. In other words, the player in question is playing against four. This is what Lakshya Sen has been doing. In the world of Indian badminton, this is not uncommon. Due to a lack of strong sparring partners, top players often prefer more than one on the other side so that their speed and endurance levels are stretched.
Back from the Polish Open (Grade 3 International Challenge event), where he lost in the final, Sen didn’t waste time relaxing. At the Prakash Padukone Academy, he is put to work by U Vimal Kumar. The former chief national coach placed four against him — two at the baseline and two at the net — as Sen tried to outsmart them. This went on for about 30 minutes and after an exhausted Sen stopped for five minutes to catch his breath, he was again called back to the court. This time, shuttles were hurled at him from four directions and his task was to retrieve.
While it may look like a punishment, this is what gets the best out of Sen. He has improved his skills through these methods and broken into the top 70 in the world.
“In one versus four, the shuttle speed is different every time. It helps him make quick decisions. You have to assume you are playing against one. Other than skills, it helps improve speed, reflexes and control. Footwork and balance get better too,” Kumar explained.
Although these methods are useful, Sen’s muscles are not fully developed yet and his young mind tends to be impatient, leading to mistakes which prove crucial on many occasions. A mental trainer and yoga are helping him manage this part. Kumar is happy with his progress and feels that by the end of the year, top 50 is a realistic target.
“He needs patience and that will come with age. But since he is young, when you push hard, soreness becomes a problem. He is working on the physical side but as coaches, we have to be careful,” Kumar said.
“The aim now will be to improve his ranking and gain entry into Super Series meets.” For Sen, what matters most in his first full year at the senior level is exposure. “The list is long for improvements — fitness, endurance, strength, speed, power and then little things on the court. With a packed calendar, I don’t get time for full training. So the focus remains on full-fledged training before tournaments.”
The next aim, however, is not on court. Sen will appear for his class XII board exams this month. After exams, he will be off to New Zealand for his first Super 300 tournament of 2019. After a month’s break, he will feature in the Australian Open, Canada Open and US Open.