A teacher's praise

By Soumik Dey, Team Marcomm Nov 15, 2021

Hyderabad: Once known as the 'McEnroe' of the badminton world, Pullela Gopichand, the Chief National Badminton coach of India, is a quiet man off the court. He opens up this time at the launch of his memoir 'Shuttler's flick – Making every match count (Simon & Schuster, 2021)' at the Indian School of Business.

The book, which was co-authored by corporate trainer Priya Kumar is the story of the psyche of a champion, of overcoming fear and exceeding oneself. Quite similar to what Kumar advocates during her daring corporate training sessions. The book is a work of two years of interviews and several updates Kumar had with the former All England Open Badminton Champion of 2001.

Madan Pillutla, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Dean of Indian School of Business welcomed the duo on stage for a conversation covering exciting aspects of the champion's life. After joining ISB from the London Business School this year, in his first media interview, Dean Madan had singled out the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Gachibowli, Hyderabad, as one of the outstanding organisations in India.

"Tell us about your injuries and how you overcame your pain," was one of the first queries with which the ISB Dean opened the floor at the launch evening.

Gopichand, who experienced his first ligament tear at 12, suffered several injuries, including some career-threatening ones. "The time lost in injury (out of the game) made me realise how much I loved the sport," said Gopichand, summing up his ordeal.

Interesting anecdotes of Gopichand dealing with a battered body after playing on a concrete court at the Sydney world championship and how he discovered that only an ice bath could provide him relief awed the audience at the launch.

A rare glimpse of Gopichand's life philosophy was visible when Dean Madan asked to know his perspective of a champion. And Gopichand quipped with: "respect for human effort and potential." "When someone respects their true potential and becomes the best version of themselves, I think that for me is the champion. The winner is not the champion.. Acknowledge you have done your best. It's ok to fail."

Both his interviewer on stage and the audience were moved by Gopichand's profound thoughts and life philosophies, taking some time to sink it all in.

Some heartwarming anecdotes from the national badminton coach's childhood are also part of this book. One of them relates to a Hyderabad school teacher of Gopichand, who praised his brother for being brilliant but not him.  

"The same teacher had tears in her eyes after I won the All England Open championship," Gopichand recalled. He admitted that the teacher had her own ways of admiring him and acknowledging his talents, despite her challenging outlook for him. 

From the stage at ISB, Gopichand thanked all the 'great teachers' he had in his life, including Ganguly Prasad and Prakash Padukone, the only Indian All India England Open Champion before him.

Responding to audience questions later, Gopichand said that he earlier used to prefer cricket as his second favourite sport after badminton but has since shifted his preference for hockey. "Live hockey is a fascinating game to watch," he told a schoolgoer in the audience.

K T R Rama Rao, working president of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Telangana cabinet minister and president of the state badminton council, attended the event. "Over the last ten years, the Gopichand Academy has produced more than 20 champions for the state," he said, acknowledging Gopichand's crucial contribution in making Hyderabad the badminton capital of the nation.