It’s a good sign that a lot of young women are taking to badminton. Today we have Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu in the top 10. We also have four in the men’s top 15. Men’s doubles is doing well alongside Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. These are good times for Indian badminton.
In the past, we lacked exposure and better planning. We didn’t believe we could do well at the top level. That has changed. We see more and more players with the belief that they can do well. Saina has shown the way and a lot of people have gained confidence from her deeds. Sindhu has made her mark and this should encourage more to take up badminton.
In our days, there weren’t many Indian women performing consistently in international sport. We had sporadic good performances. When I started coaching, I thought if I could do it, others will also believe we can be world class. If we put things in order, there was a good chance.
It’s all about the belief system. That was lacking and had to change. We knew badminton was a sport that Indians could excel in. We didn’t have proper physique and it was not a popular sport in India. Luckily, as things started changing, the results followed and people took it seriously.
There should be no compromise on fitness. The more you work, the stronger you become. It needs a strict regimen of training and discipline. Work ethic is key. We emphasised on that in our system and today are reaping the benefits of that. We had the skills. It was a question of proper chemistry between fitness and skills. Today, our players are faster and stronger. The Sainas and Sindhus have demonstrated that a number of times.
Badminton is challenging. There are a lot of youngsters coming up from different countries. A lot of planning is going in. If you are mentally strong, it helps the coach and player. We have to develop a system wherein talking should be minimal with an atmosphere that motivates players.
What is encouraging now is players are taking to the game at the age of eight instead of 10 or 12. Eight is the right age to start. Girls are believing they have killer instinct. They are fearless and daring, with the intensity to succeed at the highest level.
The writer is a former All-England champ and national chief coach as told to N Jagannath Das