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The lights inside the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall bring Indian badminton into sharp focus. At the Yonex Sunrise India Open, a Super Series 500 event, neither the spectators nor the general conditions inside the stadium betray the true significance of this event. There are bright sparks everywhere – HS Prannoy played a fiery brand of badminton built as much on attitude as it was on skill. The confidence and calm with which he came through the battle against Jan O Jorgensen epitomizes the new-found maturity and confidence that underlines the young man’s game. Shubhankar Dey gave it all he had before bowing down Tzu Wei Wang, who will have Parupalli Kashyap standing in his path, when he returns to the court tomorrow. The elder statesman of Indian badminton was a comfortable winner over Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. Elsewhere, Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma combined yet again to produce a thrilling encounter. The two have been sparring regularly in the recent past as they force their way up the pecking order in international badminton. It was a pity today that only one of them could progress. PV Sindhu and Srikanth Kidambi had a routine day at work waltzing past their hapless opponents almost at will. Even in the doubles, we seem to be finally solving the riddles and doing them well. Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa are firing imagination with their recent run of good results, a fine win against the Chinese today must add to their confidence. Watching on in his characteristic impassiveness was the Moses that has taken badminton past the sea of doubt into an era of absolute glory.
Pullela Gopichand has fired Indian badminton into an orbit that is bleeding with hope and unlimited promise.But there are greater horizons that need to be conquered and the sport will not stay on course unless we find the structural solutions needed to help it upwards. “There has been so much success for badminton under the dedicated guidance of Gopi Anna (elder brother),” says Kashyap. “He has spent the past decade showcasing the methods needed for international success and we need to strengthen his hands. “All over the globe the head coach has the freedom to work with his/her team and we need a similar system in India. The sports administration in India needs to allow our Chief National Coach, the space and resources needed to build on our past success,” he added. “Our federation and the Sports Ministry must provide an enabling environment, with everything from shuttles to the right people to train for success.” Despite the unqualified success of our players over the past many years, the players and coaches are often found to be working on the strength of their passion and purpose. A career in badminton is still a mirage. While there is a good deal of support for the various top players and Gopichand, there is a need for a structured approach to institutionalise the formula. “I think badminton has reached a stage where we could have a categorised contracts for players. With sponsors coming on board, it will give the players great stability and confidence if they are awarded annual contracts based on international rankings and performances,” said Kashyap, as he continued hunting for long term solutions for the development of badminton in India. The success of cricket, believes Kashyap, could offer a strong model for badminton if we wish to transform into a truly global giant in the sport. “The state of our support staff is even more worrisome. Many of them have been working on the same level of income for nearly a decade. I believe that is not entirely fair or sustainable,” suggested Kashyap. “The federation needs to consider employing proven professionals to work with the national team in the role of physios and trainers. Paying them well could spur a new level of growth for Indian badminton.” The resounding success of Japan on the world stage as it continues to supplant China as the biggest power in badminton is a model to learn from. The Japanese have made some fundamental investments in badminton, including a long term contract for Park Joo-bong, who has been in charge of the sport since 2010. The Japanese are bleeding success – three men in the top twenty, including a dominant Kento Momota at the top; Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi are inside the top five too. Two of the top five men’s doubles teams and three of the top five women’s doubles teams are Japanese. Kashyap has been around Indian badminton long enough to understand the nuances of the sport both on and off the court. He is the quintessential wounded warrior who has worked diligently to make the most of his talents despite repeated injury and strife. In the final leg of his glorious career, spent representing India on the highest stages of the sport, Kashyap is looking to put the finishing touches on a legacy that shall run parallel to the rise of his mentor and national coach Gopichand. Just as is the case with his mentor, Kashyap is genuinely concerned for the growth of the sport in India. As our badminton players prepare hard for the Olympic battles that lay ahead, this is the time to hear his voice of wisdom in the interest of India’s Olympic aspirations and a great future for badminton.