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Jwala Gutta lashes out at Pullela Gopichand for unfair treatment

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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Modified 20 Dec 2019, 11:27 IST
Jwala Gutta
Jwala Gutta

What’s the story?

The rift between the Indian chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and doubles ace Jwala Gutta is well-known. In a bare-all chat with The Indian Express, the player-turned-mentor has not minced her words about her bone of contention with the celebrated coach.

Voicing her displeasure for the unfair treatment that was meted out to her, the 33-year-old said that Gopichand ‘let her down’. Despite being the long-standing No. 1 in the country, Gutta has alleged that she never received the support or the encouragement which is profusely showered on the singles exponents these days.

“Time and again, I was thrown out of the national camp which was unnecessary. First of all, we don’t have any doubles pair, I’m the national champ since 2000-01, and you are troubling me. I was never given any explanation,” the disgruntled Gutta said.

“I kept proving myself by winning tournaments, winning matches. Doubles is completely different. It needs different attention. Singles is doing better because they are getting all the support in the world,” she pointed out.

In case you didn’t know

Jwala Gutta’s doubles resume sparkles with a long list of illustrious accomplishments. The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold and the 2011 World Championships women’s doubles bronze medals are the most prominent among them.

In mixed doubles too, she made it to the final of the Super Series Masters Finals in 2009. Her consistency and high level of play helped her become the first Indian to attain a top-10 ranking in both women’s doubles and mixed doubles categories.

Also read: Badminton coach SM Arif has found his next Saina Nehwal in Ira Sharma

The heart of the matter

The southpaw has been very straightforward about her fallout with Gopichand, who was her erstwhile practice partner in her early days. The acrimony stemmed from the fact that the encouragement was always lacking even after she brought laurels for the country. Jwala has specified that she has never asked for money or awards yet was always the one to be snubbed.

Recalling the unsavoury incidents, she said that in 2006, a 23-year-old Gutta was thrown out of the team to make way for the juniors right after securing bronze with V Diju in the Commonwealth Games mixed team event.

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In 2007, Jwala wanted to concentrate on playing tournaments and gaining ranking points with the 2008 Beijing Olympics coming up but was asked to stay back and train in the camp.

A firm believer of the Chinese system of play, Gopichand is notorious for emphasising on the importance of training camps and making his players skip tournaments. Recently HS Prannoy, who made waves during the Indonesia Open, was prevented from participating in the Malaysia Open before that and had to miss out on a probable World Championships berth.

Jwala argued that it is easy to impose that on singles players when they have already achieved an elite ranking. Her ranking had a free fall from 25 to the 50s because of her absence from the circuit. In spite of the 14-time national champion offering to pay herself for the events, her countless pleas fell on deaf ears, further widening the gulf between Gopichand and herself.

Also read: Kidambi Srikanth has hit top gear and just wants to keep winning

What’s next?

The former World No. 6 has recently been included in the Badminton Association of India (BAI)’s coaches panel and will be focussing on the growth and development of doubles in India. Talent scouting and increasing bench strength are currently her top priorities. She will also be imparting her valuable expertise on improving the understanding of doubles tactics.

She is yet to officially retire as a player.

Author’s take

The Gopichand vs Gutta saga has been well-documented over the years and has been unfortunate. While the coach has ensured that singles players fly high, it is true that the doubles section has been neglected.

Jwala’s arguments, even though one-sided, help to shed light on what went wrong between the two and where things could have been done differently. Nevertheless, as the premier doubles exponent enters a new phase of her career, here’s hoping her vast experience can bring about the change she was always looking for and push doubles to a lofty pedestal.

Also read: Badminton: India needs strong roots to match China, says coach Pullela Gopichand

Published 18 Jul 2017, 13:26 IST
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