INTERVIEW | Thomas Cup win a big boost but maintaining momentum vital: BAI general secretary Mishra

Express News Service

The incredible Thomas Cup victory on Sunday is slowly sinking in. Some of the top players are shifting their focus to Thailand Open (Super 500) starting at the same venue from Tuesday.

That’s how gruelling and unforgiving the calendar in badminton is. Back home, the officials after soaking in the feeling, started to plan for the future.

In fact on a day India won the historic title, the Badminton Association of India’s (BAI) Executive Committee met and chalked out a plan for the future.

Continuity of the process, the importance of not just academies but coaches too, expanding the talent pool and hosting more international events in India are some of the points mooted during the meeting.

Newly-elected BAI general secretary Sanjay Mishra has seen the system up close both as chief coach for the junior teams and as a former player. He spoke about the new path BAI is planning to tread. Excerpts:

On making history in Bangkok

This was a team effort. Everyone played exceptionally well and gave their 100 per cent. They played like a team. The BAI had also put in plenty of effort to make the selection trials and come up with rules and regulations, and I think we had picked the best team. We had also received a boost with the appointment of doubles coach Mathias Boe and SAI had a big hand in that. The president (Himanta Biswa Sarma) has also had a big hand, he has been really supportive. All the players, coaches, SAI, BAI were proactive. This massive outcome will obviously be remembered for years. Getting the result is huge but maintaining this is going to be tougher. And that is important.

On Lakshya Sen, someone who won Youth Olympics silver medal under his watch

He has been doing consistently well for the last four, five years but if you talk about seniors, he has been at a different level in the last four or five months. He is that level of player. Even though he lost the two knockout matches, he stepped up when mattered.

On ambitions to conduct International Challenges

We have been conducting four or five international competitions and there are plans to conduct more. We will be making a proposal to conduct two International Challengers, the president (BAI) has approved the idea. If the BWF gives us the green light, then we’ll start conducting the same from next year. The reason is the Challenges are a good platform for upcoming stars. When that happens in Europe, at least 40, 50 players from India travel to take part and one player will be spending at least around Rs 2 to 3 lakh. So if that happens in India, those players and others can also participate.

On plans to recruit coaches across the country

We will also be recruiting 30 coaches, who’ll be under BAI payroll. We get support from SAI and TOPS without a doubt but these 30 coaches will be on BAI payroll and they will be posted in small centres, after consultation with a particular state association. The said state association will take care of fooding and lodging for the coaches, the BAI will take care of the salary of the coach. We’ll be posting a notification in regards to the same very soon. NIS coaches or former players, we will pick the best 30. Once a year, they will come to the national centre. We would also request the names of two, or three coaches from every state association. Four coaches (two state associations) will be sent for two-week training programmes at our main centres (Hyderabad and Bangalore). The 14-day experience will be beneficial for those coaches. If we develop coaches, it will automatically be beneficial for shuttlers and will help Indian badminton in the long run.

On bridging the gap in women’s singles

We can say that there’s a bit of a gap in the level of performance after PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. We are trying to help the youngsters get maximum exposure and I feel that within a year or two, the gap will come down.

On Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty

Before their arrival, we didn’t have men’s doubles pairs who had significant results at the world level. These two have proved that Indian badminton is not just about singles. We have had players like Jwala (Gutta) and (V) Diju who have done significantly well in the past, but the manner in which these two guys have operated, taking it to another level, the juniors, who earlier neglected the category, have now started taking a keen interest. Earlier, shuttlers would take part in both singles and doubles. Now, there are youngsters who are purely into doubles.

On HS Prannoy’s selection

Based on his history, we knew that he can deliver during a particular match on any given day. Fitness has been the main concern for him over the years and we know sometimes, it can get difficult for him as he goes deep into a competition. But we knew he has the capability to come up with a performance, at any level. And he proved that.  

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