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‘Ashwini brings a lot to the pair’

During every training session at the Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) stadium in Hyderabad, SM Arif spends considerable time pushing Jwala Gutta to work harder on her training and fitness.

other Updated: Aug 14, 2011 00:05 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

During every training session at the Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) stadium in Hyderabad, SM Arif spends considerable time pushing Jwala Gutta to work harder on her training and fitness.

The former national coach's tone may have changed over the last one and half decades in which Jwala has been training under him but the underlying message is the same. But even Arif admits that there has been changes in the approach of his most illustrious ward and credits the change to her doubles partners, Ashwini Ponnappa.

Jwala and Ashwini began playing together over two years ago and were the first Indian pair to win a Commonwealth Games gold and on Friday ensured a medal for the country in the world championship after 28 years.

"Ashwini brings a lot to the table and I am not just speaking about her smashes. She also has a very good service and her work ethic is exemplary," said the 67-year-old coach.

Jwala partnered her childhood friend, Shruti Kurien, for over a decade during which they won eight national doubles titles, Bitburger Grand Prix crown and rose to a career high ranking of world 23.

However, there was something amiss as they mostly failed to win big matches which cost them titles. "If you look at Jwala and Shruti's partnership, they also achieved a lot. But somewhere things fizzled away," admits Arif.

"Jwala is fantastic at reading the game and creating openings. With the kind of smash Ashwini possess, she can play more freely at the net and that is making a big difference," Arif added.

Ashwini is also a workaholic and plays her role in prodding Jwala to work harder in training. But Arif does not mince words in admitting that if Jwala works harder the pair could achieve a lot more.

"I will be frank in saying that I am still not happy with Jwala's overall fitness. She needs to work harder and I still blast her over her fitness. If they can achieve this (medal in London) despite that, then they can do a lot more."

Arif has a point. Jwala and Ashwini put in five weeks of training at the national camp and at the LBS stadium before the world championship and she said had never felt better before while going into a championship.

May be Ashwini can lead the way in that department from here on.