With courts out of bound due to the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian badminton has gone online with chief national coach Pullela Gopichand handing out tips through videos to the country's top shuttlers. India is currently under a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the dreaded coronavirus, which has infected more than 2000 people in the country and over a million globally.
Staying away from the game can affect fitness of the players and so Gopichand has started putting in place a program for the shuttlers, albeit, through whatsapp, an application which allows users to send text, voice and video messages. "We can only do fitness (training) because nobody has access to courts so we are doing what we can. I am sending the players videos of what to do in our whatsapp group," Gopichand told PTI. "It is a generic program but it is tuned in such a way that it caters to the people (Olympic bound) who are important," explained the 46-year-old, who is waiting for his three-week isolation to be over on Saturday.
Apart from Gopichand, Jamshedpur-born trainer Dinaz Vervatwala, who has worked with London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal, is also taking fitness classes for the Indian shuttlers via Zoom app, a platform for video communication. The men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who were assured of a place in the Olympics, is also part of the group which is following the tips. "Gopi sir sends us program schedule everyday on whatsapp. It involves mainly meditation, wall practice where I hit the shuttle on the wall, play my strokes and drives, which helps to strengthen the forearm," Chirag said. "We are also doing at least an hour of training in the evening with a trainer. Dinaz does a video-call through zoom app and everybody joins in and then we practice together."
Trainer Dinaz Vervatwala with Saina Nehwal ( Image: The Hindu
Talking about the programs, Satwik said: "Gopi sir's program is a combination of a lot of things like wall practice, skipping, small exercises, breathing exercises, it is more like simulating the actions whatever is possible at home to stay sharp. Every alternate day, we also have Dinaz taking our fitness classes. She gives us very interesting and different fitness programs, so it is fun. Almost everyone is there, Sikki (Reddy), Ashwini (Ponnappa), Sai (B Sai Praneeth), Guru (RMV Gurusaidutt), Kashyap (Parupalli) and (HS) Prannoy,"
While online sessions can keep the shuttlers fit mentally and physically for the time being, to get back to being match ready might be challenging once BWF restarts the international calendar. However, Gopichand assured that players will get at least six weeks to prepare for tournaments once there is resumption. "We don't know when the badminton circuit will start but whenever it starts, they will give you 6-8 weeks of headstart," he said.
"If they are postponing Wimbledon which is two months away then badminton will also probably start in July-August. So when they start in July or August, we will get enough time to get back our fitness, prepare and then go and play. At the moment, what is important is health and sports comes next," he signed off.