Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Friday admitted that it was tough for him to manage two of his illustrious wards Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu together, saying he could never pick a favourite between the two.
“Even in my dream, I cannot say this is my favourite trainee. That will be end of me,” Gopichand said at the Tata Steel Literary Meet.
“Over the years it’s been tough but I needed to manage. Each one’s journey is very different, each of the champions is very different,” Gopichand said at the Tata Steel Literary Meet.
“To celebrate that diversity is India. If you go to China, you won’t find the diversity. You will see one model fits all. But here each one is taken a different path and it’s a challenge to bring everyone walk a same path and get a medal,” he added.
Gopichand said he always saw the duo as his kids and felt bitter when Saina left his academy to join Prakash Padukone’s academy.
“I always felt these kids are my own as if I owned the students. I felt a sense of bitterness, anguish (when Saina left his academy). I was unhappy about it. Then when I saw her at the Olympics I thought she had a great chance and then I saw her lose,” he said.
“She came back and said I’m not finding my rhythm, no way I could say no to her. I told Sindhu: ‘Saina is going to be back. But it doesn’t mean I’m out of your time. You both will have your time. How I manage is my problem. You just tell me what you need and it will be done’. It’s always been difficult to manage these players.
“I definitely felt very hurt. No disrespect to Prakash Sir. He’s a hero, a role model and felt something very dear to me taken away. I was in Copenhagen, she was in Hyderabad. I asked her to stay back for a day. She didn’t,” he added.
Concerned that the country has not invested beyond Saina and Sindhu, Gopichand said India need to put a system in place. Beyond Sindhu and Saina, who are currently world ranked sixth and 18th respectively, there’s no one else from India inside top-50 and the next best women’s singles player from the country is Mugdha Agrey, placed a lowly 71st.
“If we look at what we have done, we have not invested in anyone beyond Saina and Sindhu. The next best players are really not taken care of,” Gopichand said.
“I’ve spoken about the need for a system in our country. To depend on emotions and energy is not going to last long. We as a country need to figure a system. It’s very important that we start looking at it. Today thanks to the popularity of the game, the numbers have grown enormously and there’s a huge amount of talent. I do believe as time goes we will find many players come by. I don’t want to take any names for the risk of missing out any,” the former All England champion added.
(with PTI inputs)