HYDERABAD: For eight years, the Indian badminton doubles fraternity bemoaned the absence of one memorable result, after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa’s World Championship bronze. Thanks to Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, that changed at the Thailand Open on Sunday. With the triumph, comes the question, are there other pairs in the country who could do it in the near future?
Experts feel there are a few who can match what the young duo was able to, but they need to play more top-level tournaments.
Exposure for the lesser known pairs has got limited over the last one year, following a Badminton Association of India (BAI) rule that provides funding only to the shuttlers in the top 30 of world rankings. The rule was adopted after BAI and Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials met last year.
Right now, there are only two men’s doubles pairs in that bracket. When it comes to women’s doubles, there is only one. In mixed doubles, there are two. Due to the rule, the next rung of players have to shell money out of their own pockets, if they wish to play abroad. As a result, they have not been able to participate in as many events as they would like. BAI has promised help for them.
The pair of Shlok Ramachandran and Arjun MR is affected by this rule.
“We were getting the required funding till last August. It doesn’t make sense to use your own money for international trips. There are more than 12 big tournaments in the calendar. What’s the use if we take part in only two? I think BAI should reconsider this,” Shlok said on the sidelines of the Hyderabad Open.
Although ousted in the quarters, the pair ranked 48th in the world has qualified for the World Championships to be held from August 19 in Switzerland.
The BFI secretary Ajay Singhania said even though the focus will be more on juniors in the coming months, the second string of seniors will also get assistance.
“SAI and BAI’s 60 percent focus is on junior players. We also try our best to provide funding to senior players outside the top 30. They will be looked after. Who knows, rules might also change,” he said.
In doubles coach Vijaydeep Singh’s words, Shlok-Arjun are capable of doing what Satwik-Chirag did. Asked whether there are others, Singh, who has been coaching at the Pullela Gopichand Academy, said: “There are quite a few with the ability to shine. Other than Shlok and Arjun, the pair of Dhruv Kapila and Krishna Prasad (World No 75). They just need more match practice to improve their performance.”