Dubai: “Not too long ago, the Premier Badminton League was a showcase of top international players and some Indians. Today many of the top players are Indians,” chief national coach Pullela Gopichand said here on Monday with a little over a week to go ahead of the event’s new season.
Speaking to a group of invited Indian media, Gopichand forecast a big year for the country’s shuttlers. “Every year in the last 10 has been better than the previous one.
“This year has been an exceptional one and if the trend continues and if we are lucky, then I think we can see multiple medals at big events, the All England, world championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.”
The chief national coach felt one of the reasons for the change was that badminton as a sport had grown in India in the last few years. “The PBL has the potential to change the scenario of Indian badminton. Already we have seen the way some of the juniors have responded.
“Satwik (Satwiksairaj Rankireddy) is a classic example of how things can turn around in one season. From not playing any match, his confidence grew as he started winning and in the end, he took the responsibility of playing a crunch match. It has been a huge transformation.
“Look at (H.S.) Prannoy as well. The PBL gave him the confidence to say that I am here too with his performance which has reflected in the way he has played tournaments around the world.”
Gopichand was critical of the changes the Badminton World Federation has imposed for the coming season, making schedules heavy for the players who will now have to play at least 12 rated tournaments for the season for points to accumulate. In this, he echoed men’s world no. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denm-ark who has been severely critical of the proposed change.
“I don’t approve of the way the BWF has made players’ participation mandatory and made them responsible for future events,” he said bluntly. “The Olympics are based on ranking, the world championship are based on rankings, Thomas and Uber Cup are based on rankings.
“You are basing it on the number of matches people have to play. I think we need to give breathers for the sport to experiment and new audiences can pick up and it can only happen if you deviate from the existing formats. What is the difference between Level 1 and Level II and Level Three for an insider in badminton itself it is complex to understand, and how do you expect a spectator who watches it on a Sunday morning to understand these? It is simply too confusing.”
U-17 players for each team
Sportzlive head Prasad Mangipudi, who runs the PBL, said here on the day, “From this year onwards, we will have one Under-17 player attached to each of the teams who will travel and train along with the players. That will help them as they can see for themselves how the senior players train and approach matches, their thought processes etc.”