Hyderabad: If Indian players are now a force to reckon with in international badminton, much of the credit should go to S.M. Arif of Hyderabad. He was the man who started the badminton revolution in India. As a former Chief National Coach, he guided Indian players to many victories. Those who are coaches today including P Gopichand were coached by Arif. Over a period of more than 50 years he has been associated with Indian badminton and his words carry the weight of all that vast experience.
Arif who was conferred the prestigious Dronacharya award as well as Padma Shri by the Indian government, told siasat.com that P V Sindhu is India’s best bet to win a medal in badminton provided she keeps focussed in every match and retains consistency.
“I think that this postponement of the Olympic Games from 2020 to 2021 was perhaps a blessing in disguise for Sindhu. After she won the title at the world championships, she became a sought after celebrity. She was called upon to attend functions and be the chief guest at different venues across the country and all these things completely disrupted her training schedule,” said Arif.
“I remember that I told her father Ramana that these ribbon cutting programmes must stop. She should get back to training regularly and attentively. He agreed to my suggestion but sometimes these things are difficult to avoid – especially if a sponsor insists on the player’s attendance. But thankfully after a while, these functions were reduced and the Olympics were also pushed back. So that gave her a breather and enough time to get into practice mode once again,” said Arif.
“But everything in life has a plus and minus side to it. So while the postponement of the Games gave her time to train, the coronavirus situation prevented her from getting vital match practice. However we have to take consolation from the fact that this also applies to the other players who will be taking part in the Olympics. They too have not had adequate match practice,” he said.
“Now coming to the tournament itself, I can see that Sindhu has got an easy first round and probably second round too. But as the tournament progresses, she will find bigger hurdles. Her arch rival Carolina Marin of Spain may have pulled out due to injury but those who are there are extremely good players. For example the top seed Chen Yufei is an explosive player and cannot be taken lightly. The same applies to second seed Tai Tzu Ying and third seed Okohara of Japan. Competition will be extremely tough and Sindhu has to play consistently well,” said Arif.
“She has the knowledge. On some occasions she has been able to beat the best players. That fact should give her confidence a big boost. The Korean coach Park is a hard task master and he must see to it that all his wards including Sindhu maintain a high level of physical and mental fitness. Overall, her preparation has been good so I am hopeful that she will get a medal,” explained Arif.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.