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Academies needed in every state to catch up China: Prakash

Prakash Padukone

Mumbai : India needs to set up a badminton academy in every state to hone the amount of talent the country has and bridge the huge gap that exists currently with powerhouse China, feels shuttle legend Prakash Padukone.

India, currently, has two renowned academies – the two-decade-old Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru and the P Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad run by the national coach, plus an academy in Lucknow, according to the 1980 All-England men’s singles champion.

“But we need more. We need 30 academies in the long run in order to compete with China. That’s the sort of talent we have. Each state should have one academy, run by dedicated and properly qualified coaches who are prepared to put in the hard work,” the 60-year-old told PTI in an interview here.

“Players come from all over the country, but there’s no academy in the north barring the one in Lucknow. The government is also spending on foreign coaches.

“If each state cannot have an academy, SAI (Sports Authority of India)  should have one in each of the six zones including north east. But the key is to find the right personnel to manage them. There are good SAI coaches. The need is to identify them and give support and recognition. That’s the key,” said the 1978 Commonwealth Games champion.

Prakash said that these zonal academies can act as feeder lines to his academy, the academy of national coach Gopichand and the one in Lucknow which can be treated as national academies.

“SAI has centres. Some are doing well and some are not. Once they produce results it’s important to give recognition. From there (the zonal or state academies) we can pick up talent to be further trained Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Lucknow which are like national academies. That’s the right way (to go about),” he said.

Prakash said there was a number of talented juniors now in the country, especially in the boys, who can rise up to the world level in the near future with proper grooming.

“There are a lot of juniors, especially among boys, with a lot of potential to do well at the world level in, may be 5-8 years. Siril Verma is doing well and reached the final in World Juniors (in Lima, Peru, in November).

“Then there are Lakshya Sen and Chirag Sen. There are also others from Hyderabad or Bangalore. They have a fairly good potential. There are a few girls too. Ruthvika (Shivani Gudde) is one who has the height, but needs to work hard.”

He welcomed the revival of the badminton league in its new avatar – Premier Badminton League – and hoped it’s held regularly and at a specific period during the year.

“It’s good for the game. I hope it happens and happens every year and there is no break in between. In the initial year it was a grand success – marketing and popularity-wise – and also helped the game a lot.

“I don’t know why for two years it did not happen. There were some issues between the (previous) organisers and the federation (Badminton Association of India). I hope such issues do not come up and even if they come up they are sorted out.

“International players were asking when it’s coming up, if there is a break — it got postponed 5-6 times – players lose interest. Most of the foreign players plan their calendar well in advance, especially in an Olympic year. They (PBL organisers) should have a fixed slot, like in IPL. If they can convince BWF (Badminton World Federation), that will be a great help.”

Asked why an Olympic sport like badminton has not really prospered around the world and has been largely confined to the Asian continent and some parts of Europe, Prakash felt it could be because of lack of funds.

“There’s a need to popularise the sport. It’s slowly happening. There may not be enough funds. Being an Olympic sport a lot more countries are playing badminton, like Uzbekistan.”

“The standards may not have gone up or are going up slowly. There may not be a bunch of players coming up from say Spain, France, Germany, Nertherlands etcetera. These countries’ federations need more funds,” said the former badminton great.

“In USA they are trying (to popularise) by holding World Championships. In Australia, tournaments have been upgraded but players have not come up. Lack of funds is one of the major reasons for not able to develop the sport the way they want.”

Prakash, a fine exponent of net dribbles in his prime, concurred with the view expressed by another former shuttler, Anil Pradhan, that after the introduction of point-a-rally in the game, the number of strokes played has come down.

“Stroke-play has come down to a great extent. Now they only smash. They like to be on the attack most of the time as they are not confident. If you clear (toss high) or play a defensive stroke you may lose the point.

“To some extent it’s true and taken some sheen off the game. But it’s evolution of the game, like in cricket where you have T20 now. You have to adapt and players are doing so.”

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