Indian shuttlers still don’t have deceptive game like Prakash Padukone, says former national coach Vimal Kumar
Legendary Prakash Padukone belonged to an era of badminton where only one’s own hard work paid off. Without much assistance, be it financial, physical or mental, from outside sources one had to perform and excel using his skill and determination. Padukone was an epitome of those pillars of success — discipline, determination, skill and hard work — which many in his generation would have wanted to imitate.
And much like his peers, U. Vimal Kumar too was awe of Padukone’s game and his determination to succeed at the highest level even there was hardly any playing facility in the country. “He was my idol in my playing days. As a junior, we all grew up watching Prakash. What he did for Indian badminton at that time really inspired us. And that was one of the reasons, I can say ‘I gave up my medical seat to pursue badminton and become like Prakash’.
“Considering the things he could achieve when there was nothing. He was a self-taught and self-made guy; a lot of things he learnt by himself. We all just copied him,” Vimal told this correspondent as Padukone was feted with the Life Time Achievement award, an initiative instituted by the Badminton Association of India for the first time, in New Delhi recently.
When asked what was so special about Padukone’s game, Vimal explained: “There were a few things very special about his game. He was never worried too much by the strengths of others though he was aware of it. Whatever he had, whatever came to him naturally, he made it 100 percent.
“He had a very deceptive game, he was quick at the net, he could play a very good tumble at the net, and that used to be his specialization and he would make his opponents play to his tune. He could control the game and the faster the player played, he enjoyed it because he could counter the pace. And that’s how you can tackle the Chinese, Indonesians. Those things were really special about him
“To excel at the world level during those days was something incredible, we only used to read those times until I chose to stay close to him,” said the former India coach, who as a junior, practised with Padukone in Bengaluru.
Modern badminton is more about power and speed, with very less emphasis given on skills like deception, Vimal said it still is relevant and players like World no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying and several Japanese or Taiwan players are dominating the court with these strengths. However, he says Indians still don’t have that element which Padukone mastered.
“We saw several Indian players picking up his (Prakash’s) game style like Gopi picked up his net game. And similarly, Srikanth is quite good at the net. Saina and Sindhu are all excelling at the net, an area where you can really dominate. Indians have that subtle wrist and they can develop in that area.
“But deception, still I can’t see anyone, very few of Indians are equipped with the skill. But I think it does matter as you can see Tai Tzu Ying and many others are dominating with their deceptive game, so it’s still relevant in the modern game. I would still emphasize on that aspect. Today, the emphasis is so much on speed that we tend to neglect some of this strengths. In my academy, we emphasize on this aspect,” added Vimal, heaping praise on promising Lakshya Sen as “very good player” who still need to mature.
Meanwhile, when Padukone was asked how Indians can adept deception into their game, the legendary shuttler said: “Sometimes when you have something you have to forgo something. Our players need a lot of patience, a lot of practice to attain those skills. But I think a combination of some of the things which we had... if they play like what we used to play it won’t work now... they need to have power, all the modern techniques.
“But at the same time, if they can combine this with some of the good things which we had, then that will be the right key to success,” added Padukone who admitted to have gotten “emotional” while receiving the award.