John Wooden, the legendary Basketball coach, once said, “A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life”. It might be a little difficult for us, sports fans, to understand the depth in this quote and to realise the importance of a coach, considering all the hard work they put in is behind the scenes. But one thing is for sure; there would be no athlete success stories without the coach’s hard work. There would be no podium finishes and World Championships without a coach forcing to you push your limits. And there have been several inspirational and famous Guru Shishya pairs where’s one would not have been successful without the other. So let us look at 10 such incredible pairs:
1Ramakant Achrekar – Sachin Tendulkar
The best player-coach story without a doubt. Without Ramakant Achrekar, there wouldn’t have been the God of Cricket – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Achrekar sir, as he was called by his loved ones, was a coach at the famous Shivaji Park in Dadar. Sachin’s brother, Ajit, took the then 11-year old Sachin to Achrekar sir. The coach soon realised that Sachin was no ordinary kid and took him under his wings.
Achrekar asked Sachin to change schools and move to a school with a dominant Cricket team. He used to work with Sachin for hours every day. The coach would take the young batsman all around the city to get batting practice at matches.
Ramakant Achrekar had a unique way of coaching this exceptional talent. He used to place a one-rupee coin on the top of the stumps, which the bowler would get if he dismisses Sachin. If Sachin could go an entire session without getting out, he would get the coin. Sachin has 13 such coins in his collection.
Sachin did his part as well and did not let Achrekar’s hard work go to waste. The batsman is arguably the best in the history of Cricket, and he has thanked his favourite Achrekar sir for it at every step. Achrekar was awarded the Dronacharya Award in 1990.
2Pullela Gopichand – Saina and Sindhu
The former All England Open Badminton Champion turned to coach after his retirement and has changed the scene of the sport in India. Since Gopichand’s decision to switch to coaching, India has won two Olympic medals in Badminton and has become a new powerhouse on the court.
But it has hardly been smooth sailing for the coach. Gopichand founded the ‘Gopichand Badminton Academy’ in Hyderabad in 2008. And although he was awarded the land by the Andhra Pradesh Government, he had to put his own house on mortgage. Nimmagadda Prasad, a famous industrialist, donated ₹50 Million to the academy but asked Gopichand to bring a medal for India at Olympics in badminton. And look at how the coach has paid his dues!
The Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, Srikanth Kidambi, and many more have graduated and still train at the same academy. Gopichand has also coached the Indian Badminton team and was the official team coach during the Rio Olympics where Sindhu grabbed the silver medal.
3Yogeshwar Dutt – Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games Gold medallist is India’s best hope for an Olympic medal in wrestling at Tokyo 2020. And who better than an Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt to guide him?
The 36-year-old Yogeshwar was in the twilight of his career in 2017-18 but still had a few more fights left in him. But to prepare Bajrang for the upcoming Olympics, Dutt hung up his shoes to focus solely on the youngster’s training. Not only that, but Dutt also decided not to participate in the 2018 World Championship, despite it being the only medal missing from his wall. It allowed Bajrang to play freely at the Championship, where he grabbed the silver medal.
Both wrestlers play in the 65kg category, which gives Dutt a better chance of preparing Bajrang for the Olympics challenge. Bajrang considers Dutt an elder brother and has followed his instructions for more than a decade. Thanks to Yogi, Bajrang has hardly used a mobile phone in the last few years. And the player-coach duo has just one dream – First-ever Olympic Gold for India in wrestling!
4M. Nambiar – P. T. Usha
The first-ever winner of the famous Dronacharya Award, O. M. Nambiar was the one who spotted the talent in P. T. Usha. Nambiar, an Air Force Officer, dreamt of representing India in athletics. But when things did not pan out the way he wanted, instead of giving up, Nambia turned to coaching.
In 1976, Nambiar spotted the 12-year old Usha at a school in Payyoli. And thus began the journey of the ‘Payyoli Express’. “What impressed me at first sight about Usha was her lean shape and fast walking style. I knew she could become a very good sprinter.” He said about the sprinter a few years later. And the rest, as they say, was a wonderful history. P. T. Usha went on to become the “Queen of Indian Track and Field”. Nambiar won the first Dronacharya Award for the best coach in 1995.
5L Ibomcha Singh – MC Mary Kom
The National Games Gold medallist in 1981 during his playing career, L Ibomcha Singh is more famous for his coaching career. Hailing from Manipur, Singh did not have the best of the facilities to train. And he decided not to let the next generation suffer from the same.
And in his pursuit to help young boxers of Manipur, Singh found a gem – MC Mary Kom. Not only did Singh took Kom under his wings but also helped her through her difficulties. And although Kom had several top quality coaches in her later career, Singh will always be remembered as her first coach.
But Singh’s achievements go well beyond Mary Kom. He has produced superstar boxers like L Sarita, N.G. Dingko Singh, P Narjit, S Suresh, and M Suranjoy as well.
6Jagdish Singh – Vijender Singh
Jagdish Singh, former Indian boxer started a Bhiwani Boxing Club in Bhiwani in 2001. He had to take a loan of ₹4 lakh only to start the academy. But since then, it has been worth every penny.
He has trained 100s of boxers so far, but his most significant achievement came at the 2008 Olympics when his student, Vijender Singh won the bronze medal in the middleweight category. It was India’s first-ever medal in boxing.
Thanks to Jagdish’s hard work, Bhiwani is now known as the ‘Cuba of India’!
7Imran Mirza – Sania Mirza
He might not be Sania Mirza’s coach throughout her career, but Imran Mirza’s contribution to his daughter’s career is unparalleled.
A sports journalists to start with, Imran took Sania to the tennis court when she was six. And along with her coaches at the training, Imran was not only Sania’s coach but also became her shield when going got tricky for a female athlete in the game. According to Sania, her father is a keen observer of the game and has got reached an eye for details. Despite being trained by international coaches in her later career, Sania’s father has played a crucial role in the tennis star’s successful career.
8Satpal Singh – Sushil Kumar
Who is the only Indian to win two Olympic medals? Sushil Kumar! And the man behind his success? Satpal Singh. The Commonwealth and Asian Games medallist during his playing career, Satpal Singh has gone on to become the best wrestling coach in India.
Satpal trained Sushil Kumar during his early days and also during his time with the Indian team. Sushil made sure his coach’s work doesn’t go to waste, winning the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and silver at the 2012 Olympics.
Satpal has received many accolades from the Government of India for his contribution to the Indian wrestling. He has been awarded Arjuna Award, Padma Shri, Dronacharya Award and Padma Bhushan.
9Bishweshwar Nandi – Dipa Karmakar
The man who gave India one of its most prized asset, Dipa Karmakar, Bishweshwar Nandi is not the most famous name even to sports enthusiasts. But his contribution to Indian gymnastics will be remembered by all for years to come.
Nandi has treated Dipa like a family and has helped her reach the top of the mountain. He will continue to train Dipa until the 2020 Olympics and will hope to get hands-on the medal which the duo narrowly missed in Rio.
10Keshav Ranjan Banerjee – MS Dhoni
We have all seen in the movie, but how can you not mention the name of the coach who gave India the best wicketkeeper and one of the best captains of all time?
Keshav Ranjan Banerjee was the cricket coach of Dhoni’s childhood school in Ranchi. And while Dhoni was initially into football, Banerjee asked him to try wicket keeping for the school team. And since then, Dhoni has hardly looked back.
Just like others in the list, Dhoni obviously got proper training from top quality coaches later in his career. But we might never have got the MSD we have today if it wasn’t for Keshav Ranjan Banerjee.