Coach Siyadatullah, who has been courtside and has silently put in countless training hours with top shuttlers in their teenage and emerging years at Hyderabad, will be at hand, for India’s men’s singles bunch at the Badminton World Championships in Huelva, Spain.
But the 2022 season is likely to start with another familiar figure. Indonesian Mulyo Handoyo, who was a stern taskmaster in enforcing top-notch fitness levels which translated into high-ranking wins is likely to rejoin India by end-December.
“We’re still working things out. But a clearer picture should emerge in the next 10 days, and hopefully by end of the month, we should have the coaches in place here,” national coach Pullela Gopichand confirmed.
Malaysian doubles coach Tan Kim Her, who had worked with Indian combinations in the lead-up to their breakthroughs on the Tour and at last CWG and Asian Games in 2018, will also return to the India job. Steering the careers of Tour winners Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty in their transition years, he will be expected to guide the burgeoning bunch of young doubles specialists, coming through the junior ranks.
After singles coach Agus Dwi Santoso left in November, a month short of completing his contract, the Badminton Association of India had advertised for coaching vacancies on November 18. Top names, including some previous foreign coaches, applied subsequently.
“As a National Association we have the best interest of the players as well as the sport at heart, and our objective is to bring in coaches who are not only acclaimed but also understand our players. Currently we are in consultation with SAI to close the modalities,” said BAI secretary Ajay Singhania, ahead of signing off the crucial appointments.
The return of the two succesful foreign coaches will also be a rounding off of unfinished business from prior stints.
Winging it in the short-term at World’s
The Indians will have singles coach Siyadatullah and doubles coach Arun Vishnu steering them along at Huelva World Championships.
PV Sindhu will be guided by her regular Korean coach Park Tae Sang, who is also expected to chip in with helping the 4 men’s singles players, after Agus’s unexpected departure at short notice. While Korean coach Kim ji-Hyun was courtside with Gopichand when Sindhu won the World Championship in 2019, Park was back then in charge of training the men’s singles players, and as such is familiar with their requirements.
With visas not coming through in time for Indonesian doubles coach Dwi Kristiawan, the workload for the 4 men’s singles players, Sindhu and the 3 men’s doubles pairings as well as Ashwini Ponappa – Sikki Reddy will have to be shared by Siyadatullah, Arun Vishnu and coach Park.
Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen left for Huelva on Thursday, while Kidambi Srikanth is awaiting his visa to come through. PV Sindhu travelled directly from Bali where she played the World Tour Finals finals last Sunday.
National coach P Gopichand, who did not travel to Olympics after players preferred their regular foreign coaches, will not travel for the World’s either, in the absence of a clearly defined role.
While India brought home a bronze medal from Tokyo through PV Sindhu, the 2020 Games have been a nightmare for B Sai Praneeth. While coach Agus travelled to Japan and was accredited till the start of the Games, he could not be in his courtside role when the actual matches started.
With restrictions on the number of accredited support staff, coaches Park (Sindhu) and Matthias Boe (Chirag-Satwik) were preferred for Field of Play accreditations. Having to make do with a stand-in coach and bereft of the regular one, Sai Praneeth suffered terrible defeats, his misery compounded by having to get his foot taping done in a makeshift stall outside the stadium, since he had no accredited, dedicated physio either.
Agus’ exit weeks before the World Championships again leaves the men’s singles adrift, though Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy have put in some good training sessions under Gopichand and Siyadatullah. Lakshya Sen, whose father-coach DK Sen travels with him, and Kidambi Srikanth, were in Indonesia playing the World Tour Finals till last weekend. The doubles pairings have been training under Dwi Kristiawan, after Boe’s contract ended after Tokyo.
The World Championships have hurried onto the Indians and there won’t be enough time for the new coaches to make it to Spain.
Mulyo, Tan’s earlier stint
Mulyo Handoyo, formerly and famously coach of Indonesian legend Taufik Hidayat, was with the Indians from 2017, a post-Olympic year in which Sai Praneeth won his first Super Series title, HS Prannoy scalped the biggest names and Kidambi Srikanth added two more titles, Indonesia and Australia to China and India Opens.
While Siyadatullah had been courtside in China for Srikanth and Sai Praneeth picked the World Championship bronze in 2019 with Gopichand steering him, Mulyo has been credited with putting in place a fitness training regimen, more akin to the Indonesian systems. Thousands of skips and mileage running are non-negotiables under the demanding Indonesian, who was with the Singaporeans till recently and had commanded Indians’ attention earlier.
Handoyo will be expected to shore up flagging game-specific fitness levels that have seen Indian men barely contesting any finals on the circuit, and struggling to finish matches – a clear indicator of poor fitness.
Srikanth’s purple patch in 2017 had seen him pounce on those finishing opportunities when Olympic medallists tend to hibernate, against the top names, based on that bedrock of fitness. Handoyo’s technical nous is renowned, and an improvement in Tour results is expected with him courtside and travelling.
In a crucial year, with Asiad and CWG, and with age rolling by, Sai Praneeth, Srikanth and Prannoy as well as Saina Nehwal can benefit from Handoyo’s expertise in extending their careers. Although coach Park is “assigned the task of coaching women’s singles players in National Camps and in international events,” according to the SAI mandate, Handoyo’s arrival can prove beneficial to all.
The details of working hours, pay packages and precise mandates of who coaches whom though will be worked out by the incoming coaches, BAI, SAI and the head coach in coming days.
Malaysian Tan Kim Her was a favourite with the players, and will be expected to pick up the threads after a stint with Japan. He shares a good rapport with all the top names,
and is respected for his tactical acumen.