Assistant coach Palanki Uday Bhaskar Babu might be in the shadows but he's still a force to reckon with
For Palanki Uday Bhaskar Babu, life has not changed much since he joined Sports Authority of India as a badminton coach in 1987, first in Cuttack and then in Vijayawada. This 54-year-old gentleman seems to have resigned to the fact that he was destined a ‘secondary' role in the art of coaching as the bigger names such as S. M. Arif earlier and now Pullela Gopi Chand donned the role of national coaches.
But none can take credit away from Bhaskar for slogging on without looking for any recognition. He feels that he has an assigned role of grooming young talent – be it at the SAI centre in Vijayawada or in the national camps. It was this workhorse who first spotted the elegant Chetan Anand, now World No. 15 and three-time national champion. “When he was 10, he came to my Siddartha School centre and I could easily spot the spark of genius in his game. He is one of those naturals,” the SAI coach recalls.
From the start
In a way, Bhaskar owes his first national coaches panel assignment in 1997 to the former all England champion Prakash Padukone when he was in charge of BAI affairs. The fact that Gopi can afford to take a break from the camp to look after issues related to his Academy in Gachibiowli or accompany Saina Nehwal is because of the presence of the likes of Bhaskar Babu; this is itself a tribute to his efficacy at the centre.
“I am passionate because of the intense desire to see the players develop the skills which I could not as a player, being mostly a semi-finalist at the State-level,” says the untiring coach whose family is still based in Vijayawada even as he spends months in the national camps. “What I regret the most is that I missed the childhood of my two sons ,” he remarks.
“It is a matter of concern that badminton has become confined to just one or two centres unlike earlier, when there were plenty of players from places like Tirupati, Chittoor, Khammam, Warangal and Kadapa,” says Bhaskar Babu. “This has to be addressed or else there will be a huge void in the age groups,” he adds.
“The game has changed a lot but I am one of those who still believe that for any player to be good in any format he or she has to be really strong in the basics ,” argues the SAI coach. Any players who were gifted but failed to move up the ladder? “Two players – Sudhir Babu and B. Kiran Kumar. They could have gone on to win many international titles but faded out for different reasons. Even Neelima Choudhary was really good.”
Does he regret being in the shadow of big names like Arif and Gopi? “Initially, there were moments when I felt that I was not getting my due despite being the national coach for many international events. Now I have crossed that mental barrier. I get what I deserve and there is no point in cribbing about what is not in your hands,” says Bhaskar Babu.
“I take immense pride that I am associated with the 2010 Commonwealth Games preparations even as I chase my ultimate dream to see an Indian shuttler win an Olympic medal,” he assers as he moves to share words of wisdom with Saina Nehwal at the national camp in Gopi's Academy.
As this SAI coach steps closer to the silver jubilee year in his coaching, it is an acknowledged fact that Bhaskar Babu is still in search of some kind of recognition.