India had to wait for 21 years before Pullela Gopi Chand brought the All England title back to the country after Prakash Padukone managed the feat in 1980.
The exploits of Saina Nehwal have brought the focus back to the sport and the man responsible for her ascent picks junior national champion PV Sindhu to carry the mantle.
“We have few young players in Sikki Reddy and PV Sindhu,” said Gopi Chand. “I think Sindhu has the potential to make big strides in world badminton. I firmly believe that in the next few years, she will be one of the players to be watched keenly,” he said hinting that Sindhu could be the next Saina.
At 5 feet and 10 inch, Sindhu has been literarily standing head and shoulder above her compatriots in the junior category. Like Saina, the 15-year-old has been punching over her weight ever since she was 13 and had been dominating the singles and doubles events at the national level.
But 2010 proved that the two-time junior (under-19) national champion was ready to take the big leap when she qualified for the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore earlier this year.
She, however, could not participate in the Games since she was underage according to the Badminton World Federation rules for the event.
Daughter of 1986 Asian Games bronze-medallist volleyball player, PV Ramana, Sindhu has now started concentrating on the senior circuit and was picked in the Uber Cup squad to get the feel of international competition at that level. He even went out of his way to convince the Olympic Gold Quest movement to pick the teenager when they were only concentrating on prove stars.
With Saina pulling out of the competition and national champion Trupti Murgunde ousted in the first round, Sindhu is considered to be the best Indian bet in the tournament and she did not disappoint on Thursday.
The world number 159 defeated Febby Angguni of Indonesia 21-16, 21-10 in the second round to reach her maiden Grand Prix level quarterfinal at the Indian GP here and should start as favourite against her senior compatriot Anita Ohlan for a place in the semifinals.
However, Gopi Chand insists that the player would need some more time to start showing consistent results at the senior level.
“Wait for another 4-5 years and the result will be there for all to see. Sindhu is one of the best bets,” he added.
And male champions?
While Sindhu is touted to be Saina’s successor, Gopi Chand admits to paucity of talented male shuttlers in the country but said it was the case will most countries.
“Even the top nations are struggling to crack it. After Taufik Hidayat, who will soon turn 35, name any one player who Indonesia have produced in the last 10 years despite having a huge talent pool?
“Even China doesn’t have an option after Lin Dan (27), barring Bau Chunlai and Chen Jin. Denmark are yet to crack it after Peter Gade who is now 35.”
He continues after a brief pause, “It all comes down who plays to his potential on the given day. There is no fixed formula of producing champions. I had put in all my efforts and time in Saina and it paid rich dividends. Perhaps, the men will click soon.”