'She (Saina) will come back, it's just a matter of time.'
'There is no lack of talent, but ideally we should have academies in every state. Then we can compete with China.'
Describing P V Sindhu's triumph at the China Open Super Series Premier women's singles recently as a "great achievement", Indian badminton legend Prakash Padukone expressed the hope that the lanky Hyderabad girl will continue to make waves next year also.
"It's her first Super Series title and its definitely a great achievement because after you had done so well, expectations are high and to win the Super Series title coming from there - so close to the (Rio) Olympics (where Sindhu won the silver medal) - is a great achievement. I hope she continues doing well in the coming year as well," said Padukone in Mumbai, on Tuesday.
Sindhu, 21, became the third Indian, after fellow Hyderabadi Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth, to win the China Open singles crown.
Sindhu had lost to Spain's World champion Carolina Marin in the Rio Olympic Games final after winning the first game and Padukone feels perhaps she was overcome by pressure which he feels is quite normal as it was her first Olympic Games.
"No one expected her to be in the final. It was probably the pressure which she was unable to handle. In badminton the Olympic Games are the most important as they come once in four years. They are the ultimate. It's normal," he said.
"There are sports psychologists available. They are the best people to suggest what can be done. Or if it's normal (kind of pressure) some kind of meditation, yoga and breathing exercise will do the trick," said the 1980 All England men's singles champion.
Asked about Saina Nehwal, whose 2012 London Games bronze medal winning show was a path breaker for Indian women's badminton, Padukone is confident that the 26-year-old former World number one will be regain her best form. Saina struggled with a knee injury during the Rio Games, where she lost in the first round, before she underwent surgery and was out of action for nearly three months.
"She will come back, it's just a matter of time. She is not playing in Dubai (Super Series finals). She will get a break. By early 2017, it's possible for her to be back to where she was before her injury."
Agreeing that the current one can be called the "golden phase of Indian badminton", Prakash feels things can be even better with better planning to make it a "platinum phase."
"Yes, definitely it's the golden phase but probably it can get better as there's so much talent available and become the platinum phase," he said with a smile.
He said that more academies are the need of the hour and they should be spread in other zones than south which has his own academy in Bengaluru as well as national coach Pullela Gopichand's in Hyderabad.
"There is no lack of talent, but ideally we should have academies in every state. Then we can compete with China. If not state academies there should be zonal centres so that not everyone needs to come to Bengaluru or Hyderabad," he said.
"They (opening academies) look easy on paper but committed coaches makes the difference. We have committed coaches but not the right centres and vice versa," he pointed out.
Padukone also wants the Badminton Association of India to spend some money on its own and promote the game which, he felt, is currently number two behind cricket in popularity in the country.
"BAI can chip in a bit. They have enough funds. We should not be too dependent on government alone. They should spend funds in promotion of game. See BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), how they have promoted the game," he remarked.
"Badminton is probably the second-most followed sport in the country after cricket. If you don't encash on this and rest on your laurels (the blame lies on you). The federation (BAI) needs to be a little more proactive. We have the raw material but we are not tapping the kind of talent we have. If players from other states are not doing well, it's not because of lack of talent but because of lack of opportunities and facilities like Gopi has or we have," he emphasised.
He feels that the Indian women, other than Saina and Sindhu, need to improve on their physique while the men needed to be more consistent which can be achieved by proper planning of their tournament schedule.
"Physically the women need to become stronger. Sindhu and Saina are successful as much due to physical attribute as to technical attribute. Others need to focus on strength, stamina and speed. If they do that there are better chances of them doing well at the international level. They are technically good, but need to do more gym work," said Padukone, about the second string Indian women badminton players.
"There is depth among men, but the challenge would be to remain consistent. If they plan their tournament properly, skip a couple of tournaments to take rest, train properly to reach peak and go and play again - that's ideal. With better planning of tournament schedule, it's possible for them to be more consistent," he noted.
"If you plan your tournament schedule so that you play 2-3 tournaments, then take rest and train properly, you will do well in every tournament you play and it also reduces chances of injury.
"Sometimes the ranking goes down, but it does not mater. See Carolina Marin. She picks and chooses big tournaments and does well in them. If you plan and prepare well, results will be good."