Chetan Anand and Prakash Padukone share a special relationship on and off the court. Although Chetan – one of the finest strokeplayers of his generation – never formally joined Padukone’s academy in Bangalore, he would seek the former All England champion’s help in polishing his game towards the latter part of his career. The Vijayawada-born Anand and the Bangalore-based Padukone have a few things in common. Apart from being natural strokeplayers, they are both quiet, unassuming and almost reticent. That is perhaps why Anand has often spoken warmly of how well Padukone understands him.
It was almost inevitable, then, that Chetan should invoke Padukone’s name while talking of his new academy, which was launched two weeks ago. “The inspiration comes from him,” says Chetan. “I will be seeking his advice while running the academy.”
The Chetan Anand Academy – his father is in charge of administration — operates out of a four-court hall at the Municipal Stadium where Chetan used to play as a child. Chetan sees his initiative as a way of giving back to the sport and the place he hails from.
“Nothing’s happening now in Vijayawada,” says Chetan, talking of the badminton scene there. “When I started, (SAI coach) Bhaskar Babu sir was there, because the SAI had a tie-up with our school. Later, it came under SAAP (Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh). The scheme is not there anymore. So I have always been thinking of doing something for badminton. We want to concentrate on beginners. There is a lot of interest, even from people outside Vijayawada, but we will have to see.”
The academy, he says, has been on his mind for around six months. He had almost zeroed in on another stadium, but it was being renovated and he expected to start by the end of the year. However, at a summer camp a couple of months ago, he ran into the municipal commissioner, who offered him the use of the municipal stadium. Things have progressed swiftly since then. “To begin with, we must streamline everything,” says Chetan. “We want to take children of around 7 or 8. We need to scout, and we will have to restrict the number to around 40 or 50. We want to start from scratch.”
Senior coach Sudhakar Reddy is in charge of coaching, and he will have two assistants. Since Chetan is still active in international badminton, he sees himself providing inputs, while his father (B Harshvardhan) will handle the day-to-day activities of the academy. “Reddy Sir is very experienced,” Chetan says, “but I will give my inputs.”
It’s been an eventful career for Chetan thus far. He started playing badminton at eight, accompanying his father who used to play it for fitness. Eventually, a coach under the SAI scheme spotted him and asked if he was interested in seriously pursuing it. The journey since then has seen him represent the country all around the world. “The main aim of setting up the academy is to help the kids of that area, because that’s how I came up,” says Chetan. “There used to be a good set-up in those days, a many seniors who I could look up to and try to emulate. Hopefully the kids will look up to me now and try to emulate me.”