With Tokyo Olympics a little over a year away, India’s chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand has warned the players to be prudent of injuries.

The coach aims to take India’s biggest ever badminton contingent to the Tokyo Games next year. He, hence, said that the players need to manage their schedules well to avoid an injury setback.

Gopichand, apart from this, spoke to the media on PBL’s impact on Indian badminton, Kidambi Srikanth’s form, Tai Tzu Ying’s success against Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu and more.

Gopichand was present at Sree Kanteerava Indoor stadium to witness home side Bengaluru Raptors win the Premier Badminton League season 4 title after defeating Mumbai Rockets 4-2 in the final.

Excerpts from an interaction with reporters:-

On PBL’s impact

I think it helps at different levels. The players benefit from it — monetarily and experience wise. The players who are part of the team but do not get to play, get to be with the these top players and that’s a big thing in itself, to be part of the team and get tips from the top players. The third thing is even though players are form India, the local people (from other cities) never get to see them. On top of that, they get to see world champions and Olympic champions. The number of people who get inspired by the sport, the number of players who want their kids to play, the general ecosystem for badminton benefits from an event like this.

On injury prevention ahead of Olympics

I think it will be a mad rush of players trying to qualify for Olympics. I’ve seen many qualifications go by in the last few years and I do believe that players need to take extreme care about injury prevention. They have to make sure to consistently get performances and at the end of the year, that’s what matters. So it will be a tough year but hopefully we have less injuries and manage well.

On lacking coaches

We’ve struggled. We have players in the top-10 and top-20; players, who are aspiring to get from top-100 to top-10; players who are the best in the junior ranks coming up. We are trying to get more coaches into the ecosystem and hopefully we’ll get them. We have spoken about coach development being big priority but we have not succeeded in it and we are struggling because we haven’t really invested in coaches as we should. There are no easy answers for it, hopefully we start investing and get results in years to come.

Coaches are not produced in terms of learning. Coaches need to be nurtured, empowered, rewarded and awarded better. The entire ecosystem for coaches need to get better.

On Tai Tzu Ying

To be fair, with Tai Tzu, what you are seeing is a phenomenally good player. She has a wide range of shots, her speed along with her mental strength makes her quite a formidable opponent. So, I think, it’s not easy to compete against her. But having said that, Sindhu has beaten her in recent tournaments. She beat her where it mattered, at the Olympics, so we had our share of good wins. Also if you look at Saina’s record against her, although loses are there, the last few matches were close. So, I want to be optimistic and say that we will be better the next time around.

On Srikanth

Well, I think what he has played [in PBL, where he was undefeated] is testimony to the fact that he is capable of beating the best players in the world. Conditions across the world will be different, players will be different and he will have to face players and different challenges and that will be something he will have to do in the big tournaments.