The rift between India’s top badminton doubles pair of Ashwini Ponappa/Jwala Gutta and India’s chief coach P.Gopichand has widened with the pair being left out of the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme. The TOP scheme was initiated by the Sports Ministry to identify talented medal prospects for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. The ministry would then support those athletes through the National Sports Development fund. The committee that identified the sports-persons included P.Gopi Chand, the chief coach for the Indian team, along with big names like Abhinav Bindra and Rahul Dravid.
But Jwala/Ashwini have been at loggerheads with Gopichand and the Badminton Association of India(BAI) for a pretty long time. They have been ill-treated on numerous occasions though Jwala has never taken it lying down. Constant controversies have hence plagued the star pairing which brought India’s first medal at the World Championships- a bronze in the 2011 edition. Jwala has also spoken up about Gopichand’s monopoly and partiality in team selection and the numerous posts he holds.
Now, it looks like Gopichand has done irreparable damage to their relation with the latest issue. The TOP scheme picked names like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu,K Srikanth and P.Kashyap among the shuttlers. All these names are certainly medal prospects and deserving, but the World No.18’s non-inclusion is shocking. 2014 Asian Games bronze medallists, 2014 CWG silver medallists and 2010 CWG Gold medallists and a key part of India’s Uber Cup team, Jwala and Ashwini are surely medal prospects.
Smash queen-Ashwini and Jwala immediately took to social media to express their surprise and displeasure. Jwala wrote that the government, which seemed to be the only entity in their support has also now turned against them. But when they found out that Gopichand, an All England Champion himself was part of the committee, they had no doubts over what happened
It is indeed sad that India’s best doubles pair and the National coach have rifts that have put India’s medal prospects at stake. Players put in efforts unimaginable to perform their best at the highest level and bring laurels to the nation. It is unfair that one person or organisation’s ego or personal vendetta should hamper them. It is high time that the Sports Ministry intervened and sorted out things by taking the necessary action.