After getting a taste of the Tamil Nadu Badminton League, which concluded in Chennai early this week, Sanave Thomas said that Kerala should start something similar.

“If Tamil Nadu can do it, a State like Kerala which has produced so many international players, should try it out too,” said the doubles international at the Regional Sports Centre here.

“In the TNBL, one of the events was junior boys doubles (the other events were for seniors) which I thought was a very good idea. If we have a Kerala League, it will certainly raise the standard here and the juniors will improve when they watch the seniors play,” said the 34-year-old who played for Erode Eagles in Chennai. “It will make them hungrier too. But I think getting sponsors who could invest so much money in badminton could be a problem here.”

Kerala is known for its rich history in doubles. Names such as V. Diju, Jaseel P. Ismail and Rupesh Kumar quickly come to mind, apart from Sanave, who at his peak was ranked World No. 16 with Diju some 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, that rich history is now virtually proving to be a millstone around the game’s neck in Kerala. Whenever a promising player emerges from the State, he is quickly billed as a doubles star. A few of Kerala’s top singles players have also been forced to take up doubles.

No longer hungry

The problem has now grown to such an extent that Sanave said that Kerala players were no longer hungry for singles success, they were just content with the pairs’ trophies.

“In Kerala, no one knows what to decide, they just watch the seniors playing doubles, so they switch to doubles,” said Sanave. “Not that they don’t want to play singles, but since they see us do it, they come and join us.”

And for all those who have been blaming the seniors, for not guiding the juniors in the singles path, he has an answer.

“We all played singles during our junior days and till our prime level,” said Sanave, a star of many Thomas Cups and World championships and now an Inspector with the Central Excise here. “After that, we started playing doubles because we didn’t get a court to play singles. There was only court for national players then (at Kochi’s Regional Sports Centre) and we started playing doubles. So basically, that court became a doubles court.”

Changing the mindset

Sanave has now started coaching in a small way at the Regional Sports Centre and he has a plan to change the mindset of the players. He sees it as a new mission.

“Mohanachandran (the chief coach at the RSC) and I decided that we would train them for singles and if someone appears talented in doubles, we can send them to doubles,” he said.

“Youngsters such as M.R. Arjun and Reza (Farhath) look very promising in singles.”

He believes that one of the present bunch of juniors could hit it big like Andhra Pradesh’s K. Srikanth who moved from doubles to singles and struck gold at the recent Thailand Open.

But he also said that Kerala’s juniors didn’t push themselves hard.

“If you’re training in Hyderabad, you will see the difference once you enter the academy. Players are always ready to give their 100 per cent,” he said. “Here, that is lacking. That’s the main difference.”

He said coaches also had certain limitations when it came to ‘pushing’ players.

“I don’t know the reason for this attitude of the players. After a certain period, the coaches also will lose interest,” he said. “If a coach keeps pushing them and if they are not ready for it, there’s nothing much you can do.”

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