5th September, the birthday of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, is observed as Teachers’day in India. ‘Mata pita guru daivam’ – Mother, father, teachers are Gods. Today we remember the importance of teachers/gurus, celebrate their contribution in our lives and express gratitude. In sports, the coaches are the gurus. On the eve of teacher’s day, we look at the people responsible for some of India’s biggest sporting icons. They are the stars behind the stars.
‘Mata pita guru daivam’ – Mother, father, teachers are Gods. Happy Teachers Day!
In 2007, the Indian cricket team suffered a humiliating loss at the world cup and had also been through a rough time with Greg Chappell as coach. But when the former South African opener Gary Kirsten took over, India’s fortunes changed. The Indian team which was desperate to get back to winning ways, won the 2011 ODI world cup and also managed to be ranked as the number 1 test ranking team. His biggest strengths were work ethics and focus. He never let the media and limelight distract him. And he maintained good relations with all members of a star studded Indian team. A testimony of how much the team loved his is how they all tried to convince him of staying for another stint with India when his contract expired. Dhoni famously said that Guru Gary was “the best thing that ever happened to Indian cricket.”
Ramakant Achrekar (Cricket)
Ramakant Achrekar is a Mumbai based cricket coach, who is responsible for the upbringing of one of the greatest cricketers to have ever played the game, Sachin Tendulkar. Born in Maharashtra, Achrekar quickly found out that he was not cut out for playing the game. He never made it as a first class cricketer and decided to pursue his passion through coaching. In 1964, he began coaching, determined to bring about India’s future heroes, and he has never looked back. Basing his centre at Shivaji Park, his academy went on to produce special talents like Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. In 1990, he was honoured with the Dronacharya Award for his services to cricket coaching. He was also honoured with Padma Bhushan and Lifetime Achievement award presented to him by then Indian Cricket Coach Gary Kirsten.
Pullela Gopichand is a former Indian badminton player. Presently, he is the Chief National Coach for the Indian Badminton team. The former All England champion, was now feeding his athletes what he had been starved off: technical know-how, ready inputs, strategy, knowledge and an incredible off court mentality. He is known to work incredibly hard for the success of his students. He is the first one to reach the academy (at 4.15 am!) and the last one to leave. It is this dedication and hard-work that has brought India back to back Olympic medals in badminton with Saina Nehwal’s to a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics and PV Sindhu’s to a silver medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Bisweshwar Nandi along with his student Dipa Karmakar has brought gymnastics to the notice of a billion Indians. He was recently presented with the Dronacharya award and is only the second gymnastics coach to be conferred the country’s most prestigious award in coaching. He has been Dipa’s coach since the age of 6 and helped her master the Produnova – the vault of death – which most gymnast don’t even attempt, hoping to clinch a medal at the Rio Olympics. She may have missed a medal, but it’s commendable she stood 4th in the world. The efforts of Bisweshwar Nandi and Dipa Karmakar together helped in putting India on the gymnastics map!
Satpal Singh, also known as Mahabali Satpal, is one of the most decorated sports coaches in India. A formidable wrestler himself the 70s and 80s, Satpal Singh now trains many young wrestlers, who, inspired by Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt aspire to win Olympic medals for the country. He has been awarded the Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award, Padma Shri and also Padma Bhushan, making him one of the greatest Indian coaches.
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