Even as Indian players are set to compete in the Badminton World Championships, trouble seems to be brewing in Indian badminton with national coach Pullela Gopichand speaking of an "ill-defined structure" and the diminished nature of his own role as a chief national coach.
"Unfortunately in India, we don't follow a system. The role of a chief national coach is purely ornamental," Gopichand told Outlook magazine. "It is ill defined.
"When the dos and don'ts aren't clearly marked out it is bound to hurt. We have no control over how many tournaments a player will compete in. We have largely left workload management to the individual players and it's not an ideal scenario," he said .
Gopichand, whose academy in Hyderabad has produced Olympic medal winners in PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal and Superseries champions in Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth, says his hands had been tied in the role he was in.
"I have no rights whatsoever. The national coach has no meaning, he has no say in selection and planning, no say in selection of coaches and their remuneration. So far, we have brought up players due to sheer push and energy. Until we have a support system, we will not produce top players," he said.
Gopichand also cautioned that there was no plan to identify players to eventually replace the likes of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
"There is no plan to identify and nurture talent into world class players. There is no programming of young talents. Players have been left on their own. We need a system that is clearly defined, common for all and everyone knows who is accountable for what," he said.
This isn't the first time that Gopichand, who has been the national coach since 2006, has indicated his discomfort with the way things are going, especially in a year where Indians haven't done all that well, winning just two titles - one of which was due to an opponent getting injured in the final.
In July this year, he had indicated that the lack of sufficient coaches was making it impossible for him to travel with players as he used to for international competitions. He had said then that if he only keeps travelling for international tournaments with the big stars then there wouldn't be a supply line of future players. And while he might be considered one of the greatest coaches in Indian sporting history, Gopichand said that it was impossible for him to shoulder that responsibility on his own and that the sport needed structure that it was sorely lacking at the present.
"Badminton may be an individual sport but it's not necessary that training has to be individualistic. China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Denmark are training individual athletes in a team-like environment. We don't. Badminton has been in the spotlight, three years ago it was under the radar. Not anymore. It has visibility, lot of money and a lot many people are involved. That calls for a system and roles have to be specified. Gopichand alone is no good any more."