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‘Shuttler’s Flick: Making Every Match Count’ review: The making of a champion

Literary Review

Literary Review

Pullela Gopichand’s victory at the 2001 All England Open Badminton Championships was a landmark moment in Indian sport. The fairytale run, with victories over established stars, saw Gopichand emerge as only the second Indian to achieve this feat after Prakash Padukone.

It is fitting that his autobiography, Shuttler’s Flick: Making Every Match Count , written with Priya Kumar, opens with a description of this triumph. Going into the final against World No.3 Chen Hong, Gopichand was physically exhausted. A big dose of mental fortitude and game acumen was needed to overcome his fancied opponent.

The journey

Gopichand’s journey began with the immense sacrifices made by his family. His parents, Subash Chandra and Subbaravamma, devoted their finances, love and attention to shaping his career. There are several references to his modest upbringing. Gopichand avoided smashes during practice to extend the life of precious shuttles, and was forced to borrow racquets from other players when strings snapped during a match.

Gopichand is honest about the “over-age” problem that ails Indian sport. He describes how he would turn up at junior national tournaments, only to face a bearded adult on the other side of the court. It took a reassuring touch from his mother to soothe the pains of an unfair loss.

Can there be a success story without self-belief? Gopichand had this quality in abundance. It came to the fore when he declared to his defeatist Indian teammates on a tour to Malaysia that he had it in him to beat the best in the world. Those were fighting words, given that Gopichand was the youngest in the group, and yet to make a mark on the international stage. It would take a few more years for Gopichand, who describes himself as “confident, arrogant and self-assured”, to make good on his daring claim.

The book devotes plenty of space to the hard work it took to build the Gopichand Badminton Academy, which has counted Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu, Srikanth Kidambi, Parupalli Kashyap and many others as wards.

Gopichand had to run from pillar to post to gather the funds required to build the grand project, which finally came to fruition thanks to donations from generous benefactors.

Candid shots

Unlike many other star names, Gopichand does not shy away from tackling prickly subjects. He speaks candidly about shifting out from the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) as a young player, as he was overwhelmed by the towering presence of the legendary Padukone.

The matter of Saina exiting his own academy in 2014 — reportedly caused by Gopichand devoting his energy to Sindhu — is handled tactfully. The rationale given is that Gopichand just did not have the time to give each player the individual attention they desired.

Author Priya Kumar, a motivational speaker, at times veers away from the script, but for the most part, Gopichand’s story remains in focus.

Frequent inputs from Gopichand’s wife P.V.V. Lakshmi, his parents, Saina, Sindhu and others come as a welcome addition to this cerebral, inspiring read.

Shuttler’s Flick: Making Every Match Count; Pullela Gopichand & Priya Kumar, Simon & Schuster India, ₹599.

achal.ashwin@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | May 26, 2022 10:01:02 am | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/shuttlers-flick-making-every-match-count-review-the-making-of-a-champion/article38273549.ece