Top badminton players will have no option but to iron out technical issues on the road with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) making it compulsory for the top-15 singles shuttlers and top-10 doubles pairs to play at least 12 tournaments from next year, India’s chief national coach Pullela Gopichand said.

“If you look at it, there is Malaysia from January 15 to 21, Indonesia from 23 to 28 and then India Open from Jan 30 to Feb 4 and then the Asian Badminton Championships and then the All England and before that tournaments like the Swiss, Spain and German and it is like almost on the trot. So, if you have a problem in the beginning of the season, there is no time for you to take a break and solve the problem somewhere,” Gopi said during a Premier Badminton League (PBL) interaction.

In such a scenario, Gopichand feels that every day on the tour a player has to find time to iron out technical flaws and also take care of physical issues because of the non-stop travel-train-play routine the BWF is subjecting them to.

“There is no option in the BWF schedule to take a break. What can happen is that a player suddenly loses two or three tournaments and then a player could end up really struggling. Your whole game can fall apart, and mental strength is the key.”

Gopi compared how the modern player has to face a different set of demands because of the packed calendar compared to the situation during his playing days.“Talk to Prakash sir (Padukone). He would train 10 months in a year to play two tournaments. We would all start training in January thinking about the nationals in December. That is how our mindset was. If you made me play in February, March, April and May then I would be like ‘I am going to burn out’. There has to be a preparatory phase, intermediate phase, competition phase, so you divide your training. But now there is nothing like that. From a player’s perspective, these days, if they get a month without a tournament, they wouldn’t know what to do. In a way, it is good because otherwise they would get too bothered with losses.”

Among this trainees, Gopi said that he tries and ensures that the word ‘burnout’ does not linger in their minds and instead keeps them in a positive frame of mind. He added that it also helps that everyone, including PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth, are motivated. “The way I would look at burnout is not to look at it because we don’t have an option and so how do you get away from that thinking. Maybe in our minds, we think that we will burn out if we play in a certain way. But I think ‘let us not even go down that route’. It is very important to be extremely positive in our group of players. Because it is tough as one day you are playing on a fast court, one day on a slow court. So mentally, a lot of things are happening. It is important to enjoy the journey. If you stop and think what is happening and why it is happening, it just gets too complex.”

Change qualification norms

With qualification for the Olympics, World Championships and Thomas and Uber Cups based on rankings, players have no choice but to spend time and money criss-crossing the globe in search of points – a system that needs to change, Gopi believes.“I would expect a simpler system to kick in, say for the Olympics. If you say that those who reach the Asian Games final get entry into the Olympics, or if you win a BWF Super Series, that is good enough to qualify. Then you are done and you don’t have to play anymore. It makes things so much simpler. People from countries that are smaller or poorer than India, it is such a big strain.”

Opportunity for U-17 players

The third season of the Premier Badminton League will give exposure to youngsters with each team having to include an Under-17 player in its roster, said Prasad Mangipudi, co-founder of Sportzlive which runs the league. “This time every team will have a junior Under-17 player and this player will travel with the team. The player will have the opportunity to watch some of the best players training and will be with the team and it will have a huge impact on the young player,” Mangipudi said.