Lucknow: India’s top-ranked shuttler in men’s singles, B Sai Praneeth, on Monday, said that the country hasn’t invested in a future line of talent in badminton.
“Our second string of players, a lot of the juniors, who are ranked in the top-200 and 300 aren’t receiving enough support from the Badminton Association of India (BAI),” said Praneeth on the sidelines of the Premier Badminton League 2020 (PBL) tie between Pune 7 Aces and Bengaluru Raptors.
The World No 11 added that beyond the Indian players currently competing on the world tour, there aren't many who are ready or will be shortly, to ascend to the world stage and play in top-level international tournaments.
“We have no depth. There are seven of us who are ranked inside the top-30. After us, there’s only Subhankar Dey, ranked 46, and Ajay Jayaram, ranked 64, in the top-100,” said Praneeth.
“Compare that to the number of players from China and Japan in the top-100 of the world rankings and you will get the real picture.”
When asked what needs to be done by the BAI to help the sport grow continually in India, Praneeth said honing talents from a young age is the need of the hour.
“You see China and Japan. Their players are getting so much exposure. Their juniors are playing challenger events and even Super 100, 300 tournaments while in India, our younger crop of players doesn’t receive adequate funding from the federation.”
“A player has to spend his own money for everything and it is only when they are ranked in the top 30 that the federation starts taking care of boarding, lodging and travel expenses during tournaments. This needs to change.”
As the World No 11 in men’s singles, Sai Praneeth had a busy 2019 with plenty of ups and downs. After winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in August last year, Sai Praneeth’s form dipped.
In the next couple of months, he suffered defeats in first and second-round matches, often to lower-ranked opponents.
In the run-up to the PBL, Sai Praneeth failed to go past the second round of a tournament on five occasions.
India’s top-ranked shuttler in women’s singles, World No 6 PV Sindhu, suffered a similar dip in form after winning gold at the worlds. The rest of the shuttlers in the Indian contingent have a similar story to tell.
When asked about the reasons for the poor recent form of Indian shuttlers, Sai Praneeth said that a packed Badminton World Federation (BWF) calendar had led to fatigue for the players.
“Everyone played non-stop till the Syed Modi International tournament, which happened in November and was held in Lucknow. After that, most of us took a break because everyone had gone mad with the workload and fatigue was setting in,” said Sai Praneeth.
“At the top-level, when you lose early in a couple of tournaments, people start doubting your fitness. The same thing happened to me. I got married in December and I had only two weeks to train before Indonesia and Malaysia Masters.”
“I couldn’t miss both these tournaments and I didn’t have any time to prepare. There’s no mental rest for us now. Things will only get sorted once the Olympic qualification period closes in April.”
As for his assessment of the competition in men’s singles which he’s likely to face at the Tokyo Olympics, Sai Praneeth, who’s the frontrunner from India to qualify, said that there won’t be any easy winners.
“The men’s singles division is very competitive. I would say that every player who qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics will have a 60:40 chance of winning the match, and a medal.”
“More than skills, one needs luck at the Olympics. Not just during the match but off the court too, in terms of the draw one gets and staying injury-free in the run-up to the tournament.”
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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2020 23:20:37 IST