Mentor of India's doubles pairs rues lack of specialist sparring partners  

If the focus remains only on the shuttle, doubles appears to be a sped-up version of singles.

Published: 18th December 2018 01:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th December 2018 06:53 AM   |  A+A-

Indian batminton players Ashwini Ponnappa and PV Sindhu play a shot against Japan in the women's doubles match during the 18th Asian Games Jakarta Palembang 2018 in Indonesia. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD : If the focus remains only on the shuttle, doubles appears to be a sped-up version of singles. The speed in which the cork ‘shuttles’ between sides is lightning. While both singles and doubles players enjoy stardom in countries that produce some of the best shuttlers, the dichotomy between the categories in India is striking.

The Indian singles contingent led by PV Sindhu continues to make its mark. On the other hand, doubles remains a poor cousin. However, recent results suggest that the future is brighter.

At the same time, there are issues that need to be addressed.

In a conversation with this daily, national doubles coach Tan Kim Her pointed out that there has to be sparring partners for senior players training under him at Pullela Gopichand Academy.

“A sparring partner’s job is to help regular pairs during training. They should not participate in tournaments. It is difficult to find them. I cannot ask other players at the academy to play the role of sparring partners. That won’t be right. I will ask Gopi to provide such players,” said the 47-year-old Malaysian.

Soon after taking over as senior national coach in September 2015, Tan had brought together Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. From being ranked World No 684 in March 2016, to getting nominated in the BWF Most Improved Player category this year, the young duo has come a long way. Other pairs such as Ashwini Ponnappa/N Sikki Reddy and Satwiksairaj/Ponnappa have also shone.

Despite the recent success, not many youngsters are keen on doubles. Neither are parents interested in sending them for specialised training. “Indian parents want children to only play singles. Doubles is given equal importance in Asian powerhouses such as Malaysia and Korea. The scenario here will only change when a big doubles pair emerges from India, like Saina (Nehwal), Sindhu and (Kidambi) Srikanth did for singles. Doubles needs a big fillip,” Tan opined.

Elaborating on where India lags, the coach compared the badminton scene here with top Asian countries.

“There are many academies in India, which is good. But there should be one common national camp where all train under the same roof. That’s how things are in other Asian countries. There also needs to be a programme to scout talent from the junior level. The system in Malaysia gives coaches the liberty to identify players for singles and doubles by the time they reach the age of 15.”

Asked whether he is satisfied with his Indian wards’ performance, Tan revealed his target.

“This year has been good for Indian doubles players. From Satwik/Chirag to (B) Sumeeth (Reddy)/Manu (Attri), everyone has performed. But I have told them this is not enough. It’s my dream to see them on the Olympic podium. No one talks about Indian doubles. If I am able to change that, I will be satisfied. Then I might even ask SAI for another term,” said Tan, whose contract with SAI is until the 2020 Olympics.

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