Gopichand backs coaches’ criticism of shuttlers’ attitude
Is there trouble brewing between India’s elite badminton players and their coaches at the national camp?
Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, whose academy in Hyderabad also hosts the national camp, seems to think so.
After Indonesian doubles expert, Flandy Limpele, currently with the India team, gave an interview a few days back about a “lack of gratitude and discipline” among Indian players for their coaches, he got the backing of Gopichand.
“It’s pretty much what I’ve been saying,” says Gopichand.
“I don’t want to elaborate on this, but I have been asking for a system which has accountability and responsibility. We have had experiences in the past. You ask Indian coaches, they will also say the same thing. I have been saying it forever... about respect for coach. It’s not something new he’s (Limpele) saying.”
Earlier this month, Korean coach Kim Ji-hyun, who guided Sindhu to the world title in Basel this year, before quitting abruptly soon after the triumph, spoke to Korean media and allegedly called Sindhu “heartless” for not visiting her in a hospital in Hyderabad when she was ill. HT has been unable to independently verify what is being said in that interview, which can be seen on YouTube.
Sindhu’s father, PV Ramana has denied it, saying that Sindhu was not even aware of Kim’s ailment.
Kim, when asked about her sudden departure, sent a curt reply: “I made a world champion and did my job. Then l left.”
Limpele, in his interview, also said that foreign coaches quitting their India job prematurely is not a surprise.
Many foreign coaches, usually from badminton powerhouses like Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia have left without seeing out their contracts in the past. Indonesia’s Mulyo Handoyo is one. Credited for the rise of Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy, among others, he left abruptly towards 2017 end.
Hondoyo though says, “As long as I trained in India, everything was fine. Initially I had to adjust to the situation of Indian badminton but I left because of my family.
“The other coaches... I don’t know why they leave before their contracts end,” the man who guided lndonesian legend Taufik Hidayat to the 2004 Athens Olympics gold, says from Singapore, where he is national coach.
Former doubles star Jwala Gutta blames Gopichand. “We’ve not treated our coaches properly. The players noticed ‘who I have to be good with and need not be (good) with’. The last 10 years the culture was developed by the chief coach.”
Asked about his experience in India, Handoyo says: “Every player everywhere has a different character, so I adjust. Indian players have a good attitude and have gratitude (for coaches).”
According to Chirag Shetty, who, along with his doubles partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, trains under Limpele, the reason for Limpele speaking out is a newspaper article. In the article, Rankireddy credits the success of the doubles team to their previous coach Tan Kim Her, who originally brought the pair together.
But under Limpele, Rankireddy and Shetty had their breakthrough year this season, winning the Thailand Open and reaching the final of the French Open. They broke into the top 10 in world rankings and were nominated in the Most Improved Player of the Year category by Badminton World Federation (BWF).
“The article said it was Tan who helped us win the title,” Shetty said.
“It completely changed the story. We credit all our recent success to Flandy, and the credit for change in partners goes to Tan. That was a very small thing, a misunderstanding that was cleared. It is completely normal now; we even went out for lunch today. We play football with him Friday and Saturday.”
“It’s been a year working with Flandy. Though our stroke play has been the same, our physical fitness, stamina, high smashing—all credit goes to our coach (Limpele),” Shetty added. “Regarding attitude, he must have referred to singles. All the coaches who left were singles coaches.”
B Sai Praneeth, world No.11, defended the singles players. “Has any singles coach said anything like this in the past? Mulyo or Park (Tae Sang) never did. Must have been doubles.”