The war of words between members of Pulella Gopichand’s camp and Jwala Gutta’s supporters intensified.
In a diatribe defending the former All-England champion, the SAI director-general Injeti Srinivas said:
“We firmly stand by Gopi. His credentials as player, coach and administrator cannot be questioned. His contribution to the game is unparalleled and cannot be nullified by such unjustified outburst by an athlete. Having said that, Jwala’s allegations against him are in bad taste.”
“These comments are unfair and baseless. In the last TOP committee meeting, it was Gopi who urged the identification committee to bring all deserving doubles pairs in badminton into the scheme, including the duo. Earlier, he was the driving force behind the game getting a specialist foreign coach in doubles. Disappointment is one thing. But criticising an accomplished person such as Gopi openly without ascertaining facts is not fair. There are certain ‘Laxman rekhas’ that she should be aware of.”
Srinivas claimed that there is no ‘conflict-of-interest‘ in Gopichand being the chief national coach and the majority of players selected hailing from his academy in Hyderabad.
“It is not that the national coach has canvassed for his membership in the TOP committee or his academy to be made a national training centre. We thrust it on him and he has delivered.
We treat all athletes equally. No discrimination has been made whether it is in international exposure or training. Jwala and Ashwini have performed with complete support from the government.”
What Gopichand has singlehandedly wrought for the game of badminton in India in the past decade almost matches what the Chinese accomplished with their unstinting support and accompanying infrastructure over the last three decades.
While it is true that a doubles specialist coach, Tan Kim Her of Malaysia, has been appointed till the 2020 Olympics, this does not appear to have been communicated to the very players who would benefit from it most.
Speaking at a promotional event in Mumbai on Sunday, Jwala’s partner Ashwini Ponappa said:
“It’s doing the rounds but I know absolutely nothing about the status of the appointment. It would definitely help if we had a separate coach for doubles. But what would also be good is if we have a separate camp for doubles. If you’re good at singles, you don’t need to be forced to play doubles just to make up the numbers.”
“Most juniors end up choosing singles because of the immense support and attention they are promised. You can’t blame them for choosing to do so. Nor can you force them to play doubles. Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy are doing well and it’s good to see that ours isn’t the only doubles pair winning tournaments. I think the reason why other countries are doing well is because they have separate coaches for singles as well as doubles and even mixed doubles. When we talk about us lacking that extra edge when it comes to playing them, I think this is what we’re talking about.”
“I’ve read in the papers that they are looking to support us, but I don’t think I will have much to say until it actually happens. It’s never too late to give us the facilities that we are asking for. To begin with, the two of us train in different cities. While I train at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru, Jwala trains in Hyderabad. We don’t have a physio. We pay for our own nutritionists, supplements and trainers. The other players who are a part of TOPS get everything they need. Things do get a lot expensive for us. You then start taking your body for granted by pushing it because you want to play more tournaments.I don’t think they are getting the right advice. You have four singles players when you can have only two participating in the Olympics. Not only are these guys taking two extra players who won’t qualify, but they are also not supporting a proven doubles pair. It just doesn’t make sense. After the fiasco that happened in 2012, the last thing Jwala and I want is not to participate in the Rio Games.”
“For doubles, the top 16 pairs will qualify and we have to be there. Ideally, we want to be in the top 10. The qualifying process started in May and ends exactly a year later. There are quite a few tournaments (coming up), but anything can happen. There’s still a long way to go. Our next goal is to do well at the BWF World Championships in Jakarta in August.”