Top woman shuttler and World Championship doubles bronze winner Jwala Gutta says that domestic sports associations should take a leaf out of the often criticised Indian cricket board, and learn how to market the sport.
"We can't deny the fact that cricket is a religion in India. And it is popular only because of the efforts taken by BCCI. I think other sporting associations should learn something from BCCI," said Jwala, speaking at the annual awards function organised by Sports Journalists' Association of Nagpur and Nagpur Municipal Corporation on Saturday evening.
Jwala and her partner Ashwini Ponnappa won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year and went one step further to clinch a first-ever World Championship bronze in the women's section for the country in England.
Only Prakash Padukone has won a medal in World Championship history, also a bronze, in the men's singles in 1983.
But she lamented the lack of credit and recognition in the aftermath. "Unfortunately we did not get the recognition that we deserved. This will have a negative effect on the youngsters who want to take up this sport as a profession," Wardha-born Jwala said.
However, looking at the positive side, Jwala remarked that this success had changed people's approach to the doubles event.
"The recent success has created lot of interest amongst people towards doubles event. In fact, public want to see doubles matches more as it has lot of thrill and excitement. I would advise upcoming players to take the doubles event seriously since it is tougher compared to the singles," she said.
Praising Ashwini, Jwala said the two of them had a good understanding as they were good friends off the court.
"Ashwini and I are good friends. It is necessary to have a partner who is a good friend....Ashwini and I spend a lot of time together and have similar likings and have a special bond."
Looking ahead, Jwala said that doing well at next year's London Olympics was her ultimate aim, but at present she was concentrating on the Super Series events next month.
"The World Championship was a good preparation for the Olympics. Before the Olympics, we are going to play all the major tournaments. I am concentrating on the Super Series lined up next month."
The tournaments she and her partner are targeting are the Lin Ning China Masters in Changzhou (Sep 13-18) and Yonex Japan Open in Tokyo (Sep 20-25).
Jwala talked about developing a sports culture which is lacking in the country, and also said that associations should desist from indulging in politics.
"I have suffered a lot due to the politics in association. Therefore I request the associations not to involve the players in politics. Associations are for the welfare of sport-persons and not the other way round."
"Instead of involving players in silly politics, sports associations should work for their welfare so that they would bring more laurels to the country," said the Hyderabad-based Jwala who is to receive the prestigious Arjuna Award in Delhi on Monday. Jwala was felicitated with shawl and a memento. Also honoured during the function were Vidarbha cricketer Shrikant Wagh, handball player Radhika Raut (both got Mayor's Trophy).