India’s most successful doubles badminton player, Jwala Gutta is contemplating retirement as a player to take up a new role as a mentor. One of the most inspirational sportswomen from India, she is likely to be announced as a coach of the Indian Badminton doubles team ahead of the Australian Open in June. Jwala Gutta became a household name after winning the sensational gold medal in front of home crowd in 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games. She paired up with Ashwini Ponappa to make history by winning the first gold medal for India in the event.
Recipient of India’s second highest sporting honour, Arjuna Award, Jwala Gutta recently divulged her plans to end her playing career . “I’m ready to retire, I’m still waiting for an official confirmation. If it happens, yes, of course I’ll quit playing because I have to be practical. I’ll be happy to take up whatever role I’m asked to by the BAI president and help Indian doubles move ahead.”
The 33 year old has played only one tournament since the 2016 Rio Olympics – the Malaysia Masters in January, where she paired up with Manu Attri in the mixed doubles and lost in the second round. Talking about the rigours of being the flag bearer for the country when it comes to doubles, Jwala added, “I have been playing since 1999 and have been the top doubles player in India for 18 years. Right now at this stage and juncture I am not motivated enough to play. Nobody realises that I have played a lot. People ask what next; the Olympics? They expect, I like that but they should also be realistic and understand that I have played for the country for the past 18 years.”
The 2011 World Championship bronze medallist spoke about her plans if given an opportunity to handle Indian badminton doubles game, “We need to bring in corporate support, more coaches, more sparring partners and also scout talent from national-level tournaments. I’ve had constructive discussions with the president on my role and can only take the next step once an official intimation comes through.”
With new president Himanta Biswa Sharma at the helm of Badminton Association of India, one can look forward to some wholesome changes in the state of the second most popular game in the country. The issues like spreading the game to different parts of the country by setting up academies and taking the game to the grassroots certainly need a boost. And bringing in Jwala Gutta would be a step in the right direction.
In the Sudirman Cup quarterfinals on Friday, India lost 0-3 to China after the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles pairs succumbed. Emphasising the need to give the doubles game a facelift, Jwala added, “We played well against Denmark and Indonesia but China were just too good. It’s in team championships like these that the need for depth in doubles counts. Doubles has since long been living under the shadow of singles and I hope I can help change that.”