Jwala Gutta to focus on popularising doubles event, expanding talent pool in new role as coach

Mumbai: Jwala Gutta has never been afraid of speaking her mind. In the past, Jwala, widely regarded as India's best doubles player, has regularly called out the Badminton Association of India (BAI) for what she perceived to be step-motherly treatment to doubles badminton. Despite all the obstacles, Jwala and her long-time partner Ashwini Ponappa have consistently performed for the country at the highest levels, racking up podium finishes along the way.

Now in her new role as a doubles coach, Jwala says that her main focus will be to expand the talent pool for doubles players and ensure doubles events get the same recognition as singles events.

Speaking at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year awards, Jwala said that despite the popularity the sport has enjoyed following its rise to prominence after the 2010 Commonwealth Games, doubles badminton hasn’t progressed as much as singles.

2016 Rio Olympics - Badminton - Women's Doubles Group Play - Riocentro - Pavilion 4 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 12/08/2016. Jwala Gutta (IND) of India plays with Ashwini Ponnappa (IND) of India against Eefje Muskens (NED) of Netherlands and Selena Piek (NED) of Netherlands. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. - RTSMX8T

File photo of Jwala Gutta. Reuters

Jwala believes that the lack of players taking up doubles badminton is hurting India’s chances of establishing itself as a superpower in the sport.

“We only have one doubles pairing each in men’s doubles, women’s double and mixed doubles and expecting them to deliver results at each event is unfair," Jwala said.

“If you look at China’s success story, you’ll see that their attitude towards the sport is fair. They don't discriminate among their players and all get their due credit. They have a specialist coach for each of the doubles events and it is considered as important as singles events," she added.

Bemoaning the lack of doubles players in the country, Jwala said, “Not lot of players are motivated enough to take up doubles. Everybody is motivated to take up singles because of the kind of promotion it gets. We need to promote doubles, we need to educate everybody about doubles, enlighten them.

“One of my primary focuses is to develop a talent scouting program to identify upcoming players from around the country. We’ll be attending various national tournaments all over the country and identify players and get them to train with us at the national academy."

In December 2015, the BAI appointed former Malaysia national coach Tan Kim Her as the national doubles coach. And it is fair to say that the 45-year-old has made progress with the doubles teams if India’s performance at the 2017 Sudirman Cup is considered.

India earned a hard-fought 4-1 victory against Indonesia, where the mixed-doubles pairing of Ashwini and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy overcame the challenge of much-fancied Indonesian pairing of Olympic gold medalist Tontowi Ahmad and Gloria Widjaja while Ashwini teamed up with N Sikki Reddy to win comfortably in their women’s doubles match.

While praising the influence of foreign coaches like Tan Kim Her and men’s singles coach Mulyo Handoyo, Jwala stressed on the importance of having more home-grown coaches in the coaching panel.

“Foreign coaches are always good and they have their inputs so it's good to work with them and we should take their help in expanding the doubles team. But who would know the Indian badminton situation better than an Indian player?” Jwala asked.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist has appealed to the government to work on expanding the sport by way of establishing badminton academies across the country.

“We have some excellent private academies in the country who have been doing a good job in training upcoming shuttlers. But kids coming from the middle class and lower middle class can't afford private academies, so we need the government to ensure that money isn’t an issue when it comes to unearthing new talent,” Jwala said.

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 17:07 PM

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