Prakash Padukone advises PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth on importance of scheduling
For all the giant strides India has taken on the international badminton circuit, overexertion is now becoming a concern.
Prakash Padukone : Coming to the end of a stellar season in which Kidambi Srikanth won four Super Series titles, the shuttler now finds himself struggling to be fit for at the World Super Series Finals in Dubai next month. A packed schedule saw the 24-year-old playing continuously since October 18, but only until the senior national championships in Nagpur earlier this month when he aggravated a leg injury. For all the giant strides India has taken on the international badminton circuit, overexertion is now becoming a concern.
“They’re definitely playing more tournaments than required,” says former world no 1 Prakash Padukone. “The Indian players need to be careful not to pick too many events. Fatigue and injuries are the two things that can result from playing too many tournaments. It’s important to strike the right balance between training and the number of tournaments you play.”
Srikanth picked up the injury at the Nationals despite playing only 12 tour events. Last year, he had played 16, but more so to gain a higher rank for the Rio Olympics.
The 2018 season hence becomes all the more crucial because of the Commonwealth Games and particularly the Asian Games. And it makes the tour even more hectic, scheduling wise, as the only way for players to get time off to recover will be by skipping events. “Apart from Denmark, all the big countries will be at the Asian Games, so that will be like a World Championship,” Padukone says. “You have to focus on the big events and work backwards. Schedule your tournaments in such a way that you reach your peak in that particular week. That’s the most important thing.”
Padukone cites PV Sindhu’s run to the silver medal at the Rio Games last year as an example. The 22-year-old had taken a six-week break before the quadrennial event and ended up becoming only the second shuttler from the country to stand on the Olympic podium. “She wasn’t doing too well and took some time off before Rio, but peaked at the right time because the main target was always the Olympics,” he adds. “There’s no guarantee that if you do that (skip tournaments), you will win. But it’ll give you the best chance of playing to your potential in the big events.”
Sindhu continued her fine run this year as well, winning two Super Series titles and a Grand Prix Gold event. She also picked up her third World Championship medal, earning a silver after an epic 110-minute final against Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. The results took her to as high as world no 2, the same rank Srikanth had achieved after his wins.
The pair, however, have since dropped a spot after Srikanth skipped the Super Series in China and Hong Kong, and Sindhu lost in the final of the latter event. Padukone, however, isn’t too concerned about the rankings. “I’ve always maintained that while ranking is important, it is not the only thing,” he says. “If your ranking goes down for one or two weeks, let it be. The important thing should be winning the important tournaments. All England, the World Championships, Olympics, Super Series Finals…”
After winning the French Open in October, Srikanth rose to world no 2. He was on the verge of becoming the first Indian men’s singles players since Padukone to reach the top of the world leaderboard. A win in China would have sealed the achievement, but for the leg injury at the Nationals.
Interestingly enough, current world no 1 Viktor Axelsen pulled out of the Hong Kong Open to recover from an infection to his little toe and prepare for the Super Series Finals – just as Srikanth has done.
“Srikanth has taken the right decision to skip tournaments and given himself a few weeks to prepare for the Finals,” says Padukone. “He could have played in China and Hong Kong, but he can get ranking points in the Finals and still get to no. 1 by winning the event.”