From a mischievous, unfocused boy to a fearsome warrior, Kidambi Srikanth has taken difficult but bold steps forward. The spark was always there but it took a coach of the quality of Pullela Gopichand to rein in the restless spirit in him and hone his talent into a top-notch player who can battle with the best today.
Srikanth started playing the shuttle game with his brother Nandagopal in Guntur. But once Nandagopal joined the Gopichand Academy in 2008, Srikanth just stopped as he seemed to lose interest. His parents, however, believed in his talent and brought him to Gopi. That was the first big step.
“He came a little while later after Nandu joined the academy. His father brought him and requested me to take him into the academy as he was not doing anything at home and simply wasting his time,” Gopichand recalled. However, even after joining the academy, Srikanth did not get serious about his sport. “He was not serious about his training. He would always joke around, play pranks, have fun. He did not have any big aspirations as such. He came here just to be with his brother,” Gopi said.
Initially, Srikanth played in both singles and doubles. He even won a medal in doubles at the Commonwealth junior events and seemed content with it. “Once he won medals in doubles, he stopped focusing on singles. I then took him away from doubles as he was not getting the results in singles. He resisted but I put my foot down and made him play only singles,” Gopi said.
Srikanth’s unorthodox style and natural strokes had caught Gopi’s attention and the coach was keen to mould him into a singles specialist. “I always thought that he was a different type of player with a very unorthodox style. We can’t teach and make people learn such type of shots. This type of game is more useful internationally.”
Gopi took some tough measures to turn Srikanth into a serious shuttler. “As he was a playful kind, I had to always shout at him to get things in order,” he said. But how did Srikanth react when Gopi gave him a piece of his mind? “He is a good guy who blindly believed in me. Even his parents had full faith in me,” the coach said.
Today, as Srikanth has emerged as a star, Gopi feels happy and vindicated.