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Interview with Jwala Gutta: "Indian badminton has grown not because of only one player"

India's best doubles player Jwala Gutta speaks her mind in a free-wheeling chat

Jwala Gutta
Jwala Gutta [File Photo]

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are riding on a wave on confidence, especially after they annexed the Canadian Open women’s doubles crown beating a higher-ranked Dutch pair in the final. The country’s numero uno women’s doubles pair attained their career-best ranking of 12 and are now keyed up for the upcoming World Badminton Championship, which is kicking off in China in the second week of August.

Jwala Gutta spoke about Indian badminton and much more in an exclusive interview over the phone.

Here are the excerpts:

Q. How you assess your chances for the upcoming World Badminton Championship?

We (me and Ashwini) have been training hard and we are really excited; hopefully we will come out with a strong performance in the World Badminton Championship.

Q. You guys have reached your career-best ranking of 12. How do you think the road ahead will be as far as breaking into the top-10 is concerned?

Of course, we have really worked hard to reach our career-best world ranking of 12, but to stay put in the top-10 is even more difficult. We have to be really consistent to stay in the top-10 for a longer period.

Q. It appears that women’s doubles is not taken seriously, resulting in the country not churning out quality doubles pairs. Your thoughts.

If you look at the top badminton playing nations like China, Japan Korea among others, you will see that they put up four or five pairs in each tournament be it in men’s doubles, women’s doubles or mixed doubles. As for India, we end up fielding one pair in each category, which is not the way to go about it. We need to field more doubles pairs in different categories and that way we could see doubles in India get more competitive.

Q. What’s your take for the upliftment of doubles in India?

First of all, you need to have a separate doubles camp and not club it with the singles camp. A singles player does not play doubles and a doubles player does not play singles, so both camps should be conducted separately. Doubles players must get the same kind of facilities like our singles players get like personal trainers, physio, etc. Doubles players also need to be encouraged more in the form of cash awards, felicitations handed to singles players. I’m sure if these things are taken of, doubles will really grow in India.

Q. What are the attributes that really make Jwala-Ashwini such a potent doubles force?

Ashwini Ponnappa Jwala Gutta
Ashwini Ponnappa (L) and Jwala Gutta pose with the silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

We have great understanding and are one of the attacking doubles players in the world. Ashwini is a hard-hitter and opponents are scared to be at the receiving end. We have tremendous self-belief, we are fighters and fearless. All these qualities have helped us to forge a robust doubles combination.

Q. Jwala Gutta is known as a girl who likes to speak her mind, which is often construed as ‘criticism’ in most quarters. What’s your take?

I have been playing international badminton since 2005 and have won 35 international titles. I have achieved a lot in badminton doubles and I didn’t have a role model while picking up this sport. I’m the country’s best doubles player and if I say something, what stops people from taking it as a suggestion and not as a criticism. We are all part of the badminton fraternity and I will never do anything to harm the sport.

All I say is for the betterment of Indian badminton and concerned people should take what I say in the right spirit and not as anything else. Let’s understand one thing – Indian badminton has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and this has happened not because of any one player, and we all, including me and Ashwini have also contributed towards it.

Q. The Badminton Association of India (BAI) has roped in a doubles coach for the national side. Do you see it as a positive augury?

Definitely, it’s a step in the right direction. We are happy with this development and I hope the new doubles coach is given a free hand in performing his coaching duties sans any interference from any quarter.

Q. You guys were not included in the first two lists of the TOP scheme. How optimistic are you guys about your inclusion in this scheme?

We are staying positive about it and hope we are part of the scheme.

Q. To play in the 2016 Rio Olympics, you guys need to be in the top-13 by April 2016. Is it a challenge for you guys to maintain your current ranking of 12 till mid next year?

It is, no doubt, a challenge, but we are on a roll and so will back ourselves to make the Olympic cut.

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