Badminton greats back Gandhe for Dhyan Chand award

Pradeep Gandhe.

Pradeep Gandhe.  

India’s greatest-ever badminton player Prakash Padukone leads some of the sport’s biggest names, including Dinesh Khanna, P. Gopi Chand, Vimal Kumar and world champion P.V. Sindhu, in recommending two-time Asian Games bronze medallist Pradeep Gandhe for the 2020 Dhyan Chand award.

In individual letters of appreciation, they cited Gandhe’s “outstanding contribution as a player, coach [and] official”, making the case for why he “truly deserves the award”. London Olympics quarterfinalist P. Kashyap was another to back Gandhe’s name.

“In our days, most of the Asian Games and CWG medallists had to apply for the Arjuna Award. Now, it is different, they are mostly automatic choices for the awards. So, in that context, I would be happy if I get some recognition at least now,” said the 68-year-old Gandhe, who takes pride in having been a part of an era when players were self-trained, without access to the support system modern-day competitors enjoy.

“Now, BAI [Badminton Association of India] chief Himanta Biswa Sarma is very proactive and player-friendly, backed by members who were mostly ex-players. He is always open to new ideas for promoting the sport, giving a lot of weightage to coaches and expert opinion,” Gandhe told The Hindu .

“Definitely, India is a super power in badminton now, thanks to the combined efforts of BAI and the government. And Gopi, as the chief national coach, has a big role in this evolution. He ensured that all the players were ‘made in India’ as none of his trainees were sent abroad for training.

“The other reason [for India’s success is] the PBL. I had the fortune of being one of the brains behind it. Like IPL in cricket, in badminton, too, you can see talent emerging from nowhere, even without making a mark on the domestic circuit, [thanks to] rubbing shoulders with the best,” the former India coach said.

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