Ever since he became All-England champion in 2001, Pullela Gopichand has grown to be India’s preeminent badminton coach and built up a coaching academy that’s acknowledged as the best in the country. An array of star players have emerged from his academy, including Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, P V Sindhu, R V Guru Saidutt. During the same time, Gopichand also became India’s chief coach with the responsibility of prepping India’s players for world events. This dual role has set him up for a conflict of interest charge, as evidenced by Prajakta Sawant’s complaint.
Reacting after the High Court observations, some of Gopichand’s peers agreed that he should divest himself of one of the roles.
World doubles bronze medallist Jwala Gutta, who has previously questioned BAI for asking Gopichand to host national training camps in his academy, said her stand has been vindicated. “That is what I have been saying for years. I have nothing personal against Gopi but I’m against this system, which is ruining the game,’’ she said.
Jwala said she was against one man holding so many posts.“As chief coach, Gopichand has a huge say in selection matters. There have been numerous incidents of players being threatened to join his academy of they wanted to be selected to Indian teams. I would not like to name names,’’ she added.
Jwala said places like the Siri Fort Complex in Delhi could be considered for national camps.“We have places but why is this academy being promoted? Badminton has become a rich man’s game,’’ she said. Former chief coach S M Arif, and Gopichand’s mentor, agreed that the Bombay High Court was justified in its remarks on Gopichand’s dual role. “All the eggs cannot be put in one basket. It is time India’s coaching camps are shifted from Gopichand’s academy,’’ he said.