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Pullela Gopichand suggests player segregation, fewer venues for smooth restart

If something radical needs to be done, then let's do it and let's go ahead with the sport: Pullela Gopichand Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

India's national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand wants BWF to come up with "radical" solutions to restart the sport smoothly in a post COVID-19 world, suggesting that conducting more tournaments at a single venue could be the way forward.

"BWF should talk to health people and revise the format itself, the tournament structure itself and do whatever is required," Gopichand told PTI.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to suspend all events, including the Olympic qualifiers, till end of July.

"My view is if something radical needs to be done, then let's do it and let's go ahead with the sport," he said.

In a bid to salvage the international circuit, BWF had postponed important events such as the Thomas and Uber Cup Final (October 3-11), besides asking for fresh slots from respective countries, including India, to conduct the suspended Olympic qualifiers.

"My concern is that, you are trying to shift the dates, probably there needs to be a change in thinking. If the same thing continues, and the whole entourage is travelling again to different countries then it is again risking players," Gopichand said.

"I would say, planning of the tournaments has to be such that players can actually stay at one place and play more number of tournaments. It could be the next normal," he said.

There is speculation that the sport might initially return without fans in the wake of the global health crisis.

Gopichand believes one way of going about things is to segregate the players on the basis of their respective formats -- men's singles, women's singles and doubles -- and then conducting tournaments in three different countries simultaneously.

"If there are no spectators, and it is a TV and internet sport then how does it matter whether you are conducting it in three different places, just lock the players in one place for three weeks. Instead of doing the tournaments say Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in three different places, do it in one place," he said.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were scheduled to host three crucial Olympic qualifiers along with India before all the events had to be suspended.

"You give men's singles to one country, give women's singles to one country and doubles to one country. So parallelly three tournament can happen. In this way, players will not have to travel so much, they can be quarantined," he said.

"If it is a draw of 32, it is only 16 matches per day. We can operate just two courts maximum, so that you don't have to mix with many players," he said.