Mumbai: She played second fiddle to senior partner Jwala Gutta during their successful combination, but shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa now has a role reversal to enact in her fledgling women`s doubles partnership with the inexperienced Pradnya Gadre.
"Jwala is a very confident player, a very good player at the net. She was the dominant player and the guiding force in our partnership. Pradnya too is a fine player at the net but she is inexperienced. Its my duty to take the initiative and guide her," said the 23-year-old Ashwini.
Ashwini had created waves during her partnership with Jwala by winning the gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a first-ever bronze medal for India in the World Championships the next year before parting ways and teaming up with Pradnya.
The doubles specialist from Bangalore was here to conduct a clinic at the Jamnabai Narsee School in suburban Vile Parle in connection with the `Shuttle Experess` initiative of the upcoming Indian Badminton League.
Ashwini said her immediate focus is to improve her rankings in both women`s doubles and mixed doubles, where she teams up with Tarun Kona.
"My partnership with Tarun and Pradnya is growing and we are getting better with every event. With the World Championship coming up, our aim is to improve our rankings," she said.
Currently Ashwini and Pradnya are ranked 27th in the world, two better than her ranking in the mixed doubles with Tarun.
The World Championships are due in Guangzhou from August 5-11, with China conducting the prestigious event after a gap of 26 years.
Ashwini, however, categorically ruled out any chance of rejoining forces with Jwala in the near future, including at next year`s Asian Games in Korea and Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
"I have a new partner (Pradnya) and would like to do well with her," she said.
Asked about the scheduled IBL, which is to kick off on August 14 after the player auctions this week in Delhi, Ashwini said: "So far so good. I am waiting for it to start and wish it all the success."
She was not bothered much about the absence of Chinese players from the inaugural edition of the franchise-based tournament.
"IBL will take India`s badminton to a new level and would bring a lot of attention to the game. There are lot of other top players - the Danes, Indonesians, Malaysians. The game is no longer dominated by the Chinese alone as there are others, including Indians, who are doing well," she noted.
She was also not too concerened that the IBL players` auction was yet to take place.
"The auctions are due on the 19th. It`s not a matter of concern, but any further delay could be a cause for concern," she said.
Lauding the schools initiative of IBL, she said that the inter-city winners would get a chance to interact with the top players and train under national coach Pullela Gopichand.
Ashwini was in favour of a specialist coach for doubles, as wished in a few quarters, and said it would also decrease the burden on Gopichand.
"Gopi Sir is a wonderful coach, but a specialist coach for doubles players would help us," she felt.