Players unsure about resumption of international calendar, causing lag in training: Gopichand

Promotes idea of starting a league in which top players compete with each other in bio bubbles to help players stay at par with international athletes

Players unsure about resumption of international calendar, causing lag in training: Gopichand

India badminton coach Pullela Gopichand. File Photo

New Delhi, September 16

With the international badminton calendar still not cast in stone amid postponements and rescheduling, India coach Pullela Gopichand on Wednesday said there was a slight "lag from the players' side" to start training.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) was forced to postpone the Thomas and Uber Cup after multiple teams pulled out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament was supposed to mark the resumption of international badminton after it came to a halt in March because of the dreaded virus.

The world body also cancelled the Denmark Masters 2020 scheduled from October 20 to 25.

"I believe our players are not trusting the fact that our badminton calendar is going to start very soon," Gopichand said during a webinar organised by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

"So there is a bit of a lag from the players' side to get together and train," he added.

Recently, Indian shuttlers had refused to comply with Sports Authority of India's quarantine norms, leading to the cancellation of a training camp for Thomas and Uber Cup.

However, Gopichand feels lack of training is not a concern as players will get back to work once they start competing at the international events.

"In all probability the Danish Open will happen and once it starts the players will work more," he said.

Gopichand said the pandemic had affected the players in different ways and some of them had made good use of their time.

"For a few of the players, it's been good because they are making good use of the pandemic, I won't say for all as some of the players resuming training are not in the best shape which they could be."

Sporting activities across the world have resumed with big events like the US Open, Formula One, international football and cricket being successfully conducted in the safety of bio-secure bubbles.

"First two months, maybe it was rest, recovery, the next two-three were about starting practice but now it's time to start looking at preparing for the future," he said.

Gopichand, who took over the reins of Indian badminton in 2006, said the country must adapt to the situation and starting a league, in which top players compete with each other in bio bubbles, could be a solution to staying at par with international athletes.

"Sport across the world has started and it means that we need to start as well because we don't want to be left behind. It means that we need to adapt because in a country like ours, to have the same kind of tournaments we used to have, may not be possible.

"But a league among top players, that is possible. So, if you are willing to quickly divide the players in our country as per their levels and start competing, it is a much faster way of creating those bubbles.

"The bubble and other sports have shown that it is possible to ensure people can compete and the players want to compete," Gopichand added.

The 46-year-old said the break from the game was bound to affect the juniors more as the Olympic-bound players would be able to capitalise on the extra time to prepare for the 2021 Games.

"My concern is not for Olympic-bound but Under-13, 14 or 19-year-olds. A six-eight month break is a break in momentum. So my concern is more for them. For Olympic-bound players, they will just take the time to prepare better for the Olympics."

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla echoed Gopichand's views on the Olympic-bound athletes.

"The postponement of a year has probably helped us in a way. Now they'll get one more year of training. I think we will do better," he said. PTI

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