THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: U Vimal Kumar, coach of India’s top woman shuttler Saina Nehwal, feels that it will be difficult for country’s current crop of youngsters to match the levels set by Saina and PV Sindhu.
Kumar, who was in the city to attend a reunion of former players, told Express that 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Saina and 2016 Olympic silver medallist Sindhu are at “a different level when it comes to their physical tolerance and commitment towards the sport”.
“I see a lot of promising youngsters in the women’s game, but when they reach the age of 18 or 19, they fail to sustain due to the physical and technical demands of badminton,” said Kumar, director and chief coach of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru.
“They need to be committed to break this barrier, but I don’t see that commitment levels from the current youngsters. And for the few who are committed, the physical attribute is a problem,” he said. “But we have to keep encouraging them and hopefully, they will break into the scene,” Kumar added.
Meanwhile, in the men’s game, the former Asian Games bronze medallist, feels Kidambi Srikanth, Prannoy HS and B Sai Praneeth can carry India’s flag at the international stage. “Players like Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram are reaching their 30s. So the onus is now on these players. In the junior level, there are players like 15-year-old Lakshya Sen who I think is highly talented.”
Kumar also reserved special praise for Prannoy. “Prannoy is an attacking player and his smashes are some of the hardest in India. But when it comes to tough and long rallies, he has to develop patience,” he said. “He is a little injury prone. If he can work on that too, he can go on and win some big titles,” he added.
“Another area we need to improve is in the doubles game. The best combination we have had is Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar who achieved a lot for India at the international level. More players need to come up and take the doubles seriously,” he said.
Kumar said that the sport is moving in the right direction. “The government support since 2007-08 has been tremendous and a lot of kids of have taken to the sport because of Saina. With Sindhu’s feat now, the interest is enormous,” he said.