The unpleasant equation between badminton player Jwala Gutta and national coach Pullela Gopichand is a well known fact. The former has often been critical of the national coach’s role in how the sport is run in India.
So unsurprisingly, the topic of their tussle dominated the proceedings on Tuesday at the launch event in New Delhi for Gutta’s badminton academy. It would start when boxer Vijender Singh asked Gutta why she opened an academy in Hyderbad where Gopichand is already running one.
Since 2009, the Indian national camp for badminton has been held at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, run by the former All England champion of course. Gutta had been critical of camps being hosted at the same venue and raised questions about conflict of interest against Gopichand, as he is on the selection committee as well.
“Nobody takes you seriously until you have a muscle,” Gutta said. “The academy is my muscle. Back then I said all the camps happens in one particular area and they [Badminton Association of India] used to tell me to suggest where they could shift. I had no answer back then but now I want to see if they will give the camp [to her academy].”
That is not the only reason for Gutta’s academy, though. Made in a 55 acres of Sujata School on the outskirts of Hyderabad, the academy will host badminton and cricket for women. Going forward, Gutta plans to bring in tennis, swimming, basketball and even volleyball.
On that note, Gutta once again targetted Gopichand’s coaching and his negligence of doubles players in India despite the rise of badminton as a sport.
“Doubles [badminton] needs a correction in the administration,” she said.
“People are not being educated how important the doubles game is. I think that is the duty of the association or a person like me, who has played.
“There is a conflict of interest as [Gopichand] is chief coach, chief selector, owns an academy, district association president, Telengana secretary, part of TOPs... so many [more roles]. A person who was there from 2006 has no power? Presidents have changed, but his name has not. So whose fault is it? He made the system,” the 36-year-old added.
Incidentally, Gutta is also part of the selection committee and is trying to get the Sports Authority of India’s help in opening up a training centre at her new academy.
A regular complain of the former bronze medallist in women’s doubles at the World Championships (2011) has been that she was never granted her due despite winning titles for India. Comparison to the treatment given to London Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was reporedly another big thorn in the relationship of Gutta and Gopichand.
The chief coach has been credited for the success of Indian badminton which has seen Nehwal win an Olympic and World Championships medals while PV Sindhu became the world champion earlier this year to go with Rio Games silver medal.
“This particular person made Nehwal — I kind of don’t agree with you,” Gutta said. “Her base and foundation was already made. What he did was provide her with exposure because he was the chief coach. One person cannot handle too many people is what we’ve learned. We need more coaches.”
Despite her suggestion, Gutta ruled herself out of taking up any coaching role at the academy as she will be the mentor.
“I have not learned coaching. I think you have to learn to be a good coach,” she said. “Every good player cannot be the best coach. My role is to mentor and I’m the bridge [between] the coaches and players and also parents.”
But she will try to hire the best coaches at her academy including a few from outside India.
“We are interviewing and I want to see their motive,” she said. “I don’t like half-hearted work so I want to pay them well if they work well. We will also try a diploma course for coaches.”