'Asians good at badminton because they're disciplined'
Faridabad: How come badminton is dominated by Asians? Could it be that the players from China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are more skilful or genetically stronger.
The cynical quip is that the sport is not lucrative; otherwise the Europeans and the Americans would have taken to it in a big way like they have adapted to basketball, baseball, football and tennis.
It is not that the western world gives a damn for badminton. Denmark has produced world beaters and so has Britain, which has thrown up some great women players.
Veteran Indonesian coach Rizqi Budi Raharjo has his logic for Asian supremacy: For him discipline matters most and the academies in Asia give utmost importance to this.
He cited India`s national coach Pullela Gopichand and said he was highly disciplined and enforces this in his wards.
"Gopichand is a good coach because he disciplines his players and is strict with them. Without discipline no player can aspire to go up in life.
Indonesia, a badminton powerhouse not long ago has gone down over the years because of the lack of discipline while countries like China, Korea and Japan have come up as their players are disciplined," says Rizqi, who was the head coach at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) till March.
"Denmark and England have started fading because they don`t show the level of commitment they did some years ago," he added.
Rizqi`s compatriot and long-time buddy Rexy Mainaky, one of the all-time great doubles players, concurs.
A former Olympic and World Champion and now the chief coach of the Philippines, Mainaky should know what he is talking about because he was England`s head coach for five years.
"Rexy tells me that the culture in Europe is such that players can`t be disciplined and a tough sport like badminton needs utmost focus throughout your playing career, if you are serious about winning. No wonder, the supply line from Europe is drying up."
If everything goes well, Rizqi and Rexy will be coaching Indonesia as the two have been called by their national federation in January to discuss how they plan to do so.
Asked about the recent controversy surrounding Gopichand, whether he can run a private academy being the national coach of a country, the 39-year-old said: "Gopichand Academy is still the best in the country and without doubt he is the best coach you have. You see the results his proteges are delivering.
They win national and international tournaments. He has given excellent results."
Asked what`s wrong with Indian badminton, Rizqi, who has trained several national champions like Anup Sridhar, Arvind Bhatt and Sayali Gokhale, said: "The problem is the players lack motivation.
The kids here are lazy; very few want to be winners. The coaches should motivate them with hard training, to build stamina and improve physical fitness."
The 39-year-old is currently here conducting a month-long coaching camp at the Manav Rachna International University in Faridabad.
About India`s GenNext, he thinks highly of 20-year-old Kidambi Srikanth and budding shuttler Pusarla Venkata Sindhu.
"Srikanth is a great prospect. Sindhu is 18 and has height and skills to match. Skill-wise, she is better than Saina (Nehwal), but the problem with her is she is not as strong as Saina mentally.
Saina is never overawed by her opponent, whether she is playing a Chinese or Japanese. Sindhu will get better with time," said Rizqi, who coached top Pakistani players in Lahore and Islamabad in recent months.
On India`s chances at the 2013 World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Rizqi said only Saina and London Olympics quarterfinalist Parupalli Kashyap have a realistic chance.
"Saina looks the only real prospect and Kashyap can do well looking at how well he has played against World No.1 Lee Chong Wei in London.
If Saina can maintain her game till Rio, she can win gold. Age will still be on her side at 26. Also, don`t count out Sindhu."
Who does he rate as the world`s best?
"China`s Lin Dan is the best, he has the best smash and is clever. He has a clear-cut game plan, he knows exactly what to do at a given situation. Malaysian Lee gets too defensive at times.
My vote goes to Taufik Hidayat, he is still the best skill-wise, better than Lee and Lin despite ageing."