P.V. Sindhu’s match is still not over. As she is shuttled between Andhra and Telangana, each chief minister trying to outscore the other in lavishing praise and pelf on her, the person looking somewhat bewildered beside her is coach Pullela Gopichand—the one man behind Indian badminton’s astonishing surge in the world arena. Gopichand’s wards are a veritable star cabinet—Saina Nehwal, who briefly touched the dizzying summit of World No. 1 in March 2015, Srikanth Kidambi, who came heart-breakingly close to a medal at Rio (that too against the great Lin Dan), Parupalli Kashyap, who got gold in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games of 2014, India’s top-ranked doubles player Jwala Gutta and rising stars Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt, Arun Vishnu.... The list goes on; hopefully, there are more world champions in the making in the assembly line at the Gopichand Badminton Academy.
What makes Gopichand and his academy tick when most sporting INStitutes in India, both government-run and private, flounder? When the only time coaches make headlines is when they quit in disgust over fractious officialdom’s interferences in player selection and day-to-day affairs or poor facilities. “Sindhu has made it, yes. But Gopi would’ve made a champion out of Sindhu or Saina or P. Kashyap or Srikanth Kidambi or anyone else. We must appreciate what he’s doing for the country and badminton.... If he continues to coach, next time he’ll make another champion,” says Arvind Bhat, India’s two-time national badminton champion who was Gopi’s rival as a player from 2001-04 and later trained at his state-of-the-art academy in Hyderabad.