Need to haul doubles out of the depths

September 18, 2017

Indian badminton


With P.V. Sindhu flying high, Indian badminton presents a very happy picture these days. There is a strong bunch from the country in the world singles rankings too, four men and two women in the top 20.

“You have shown incredible progress in singles with players like Sindhu, Saina, Srikanth, Ajay, Prannoy and Sai Praneeth. But you don’t have really world class doubles players,” said England’s former World doubles No. 1 Nick Ponting on the sidelines of the Manorama BWF World senior badminton championships here.

“And, in the academies, I don’t see anybody practising doubles. If you want to win the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup, the World team championships for men and women, you need to start training in doubles seriously.”

While India has made giant strides in singles, it does not have a single pair in the world’s top 20 in men’s or women’s doubles.

Well, what’s the problem with doubles?

“There is a limit to what is being taught in doubles. After we reach a certain level, the juniors use us to improve,” said Rupesh Kumar, who along with Sanave Thomas had a world ranking of No. 13 at their prime many years ago, the country’s best ever.

“We are then thrown out and juniors take our place and the next bunch of juniors start practising with them.

“There is no way, or plan, for us to go up. For that, either we should be sent abroad or foreign players should be brought down here. But that is not happening.”

Sanave feels Indians need to regularly train with the Koreans, Indonesians and Malaysians.

“The power, speed and reflexes are very different in doubles when compared to singles. We do not get them in India,” he explained.

With badminton becoming a high-profile sport, Rupesh feels a change in strategy is needed.

“Now that the funding is there, bring four or five players from abroad, instead of bringing two or three coaches, they can train our players and also play with them,” said the player who has figured in many World Championships and Thomas Cups with Sanave.

“In Indonesia, you will find a World champion in every corner. There, after they reach 24 or 25, they are thrown out of the national academy and 18 and 19-year-olds are brought in, who also become world champions.

“So, these 25-year-olds, who will still be among the world’s top 20, can be brought to practise with the Indians for a month or so three or four times a year. That could transform the doubles scene here.”

Rupesh feels the Badminton Association of India and even chief National coach P. Gopi Chand have not really understood doubles.

“All they say is, ‘we are giving them everything’ but they don’t think ‘what do they actually need?’” said Rupesh.

“I have spoken to Gopi about why we need to practise with foreign players but it has never convinced him because he has always been a singles player.”

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