It was Diwali and everybody was in a festive mood. But in SAI (Sport Authority of India) it was yet another day of hard work. 13 girls, who are participating for the Forthcoming National meet in the sub-junior category, are seen practicing. Suddenly appears in the frame a white Honda Civic which slowly parked in front of SAI Boxing Federation Office. Comes out with a smile is Mr. D.Chandralal, the Coach of Indian Boxing Team. He starts off with an apology for making me wait for 15 minutes. After having a small chat, he invited me to the coaching room and turned a host- “What should I do for you now?”
Q: Can you just explain how you came into boxing, since I came to know that during your schooldays you were an Interschool athletic champion, a close relative to Olympian Suresh Babu and you performed almost all items performed by him. So normally you should enter athletics’. But why you choose BOXING?
A: Yeah, I did many events in athletics including long jump and high jump. But I was specialized in Pole Vault. Since I found out that the Olympic standard for Pole Vault is very high than my standard, somehow I lost interest and dropped it. During that time our school closes in December after the final exam, results will come in March-April and college starts only in June- July. So there is a six months gap. That’s the time when we see the free world and make a lot of friends. At that time I used to warm up in the roads of Tangasseri and happened to meet Binoy S Paul, a Boxer. A very strong figured guy like Bruce lee. So he also started coming with me for jogging. When we take breaks in between, he used to do shadow boxing and I used to watch that keenly. Some days later he asked me to learn boxing for some self defense. So I along with 2 of my other friends started learning boxing thinking it’s a sports event. After 3 months, a State Championship was held in Kollam district at Tangasseri. At that time my weight was 48kgs. Felix, a degree student, almost 5 years elder to me was the defending champion and had participated in many National meets. He was also 48kgs and there was no opponent for him in that category. So Binoy asked me “Lal, why cant you pair against him”. I was not serious about taking boxing as a profession at that time. It was all fun for me. Since I had nothing to loose, I just thought of simply hitting him, when ever I get a chance. So I defeated him on the very first round itself. I felt as if he is nothing in front of me. So that was my first boxing experience and his last.
Mr.Chandralal receiving Dronacharya Award from Rashtrapathi Prathibha Patel
Q: Then why did you become a coach instead of going forward as a boxer?
A: I was keen to know the depth of this sport. Binoy was just a Senior Boxer and not a coach. Later I participated in many championships including 8 National meets. Once I received a bronze in Nationals and also Silver in Asian meet. Hence I gained a lot of experience. But my base in boxing was improper. What I gained was only through my hard work and practice which was in a crude form, not systematic. So to learn more about it I joined the training programme by National Institute of Sports to become a coach in 1983, when I was just 19 years old. But for joining, one should be minimum 21 years of age. Since my written test and interview impressed the officials they considered me as a special case. So it’s not because I wanted to become a coach I became a coach, but to learn boxing more. Later in 1985 I was posted in Bangalore and I joined there as the coach of NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPORTS. And on 1986 I was posted as the coach of Indian Sub Junior Boxing team because Karnataka Team was playing well.
Q: Can you explain your experiences as a coach?
A: Well from 1986 onwards till October 2008, I worked in different groups of Indian Boxing Team. Till 2001, I was with Indian Junior Boys. And in 2001 India received her first medal in a World Championship under my coaching. After that I became one of the highly rated coaches in India. It was in 2001 the women’s boxing started in India and Federation appointed me as the second in command of Indian women’s boxing team. And from last year onwards I was given an additional charge of Chief Coach of Under-18 Indian Junior Women’s Team which is targeting 2012 Olympics.
Q: You are an International Coach as well as an International referee right?
A: Yeah, I passed International coaching test in 1999 conducted by International Olympic Committee (IOC) and I can work as a coach in any part of the world. And I am also an international referee and the only person in India holding both positions together.
Q: What’s your opinion about our Sports Administration?
A: Really I am not interested in it but I always fight for the welfare of the students.
Q: Can you define the methods you adopt as a coach?
A: I am a very rough coach while training students because I believe it’s not a game to handle the students softly. During training I handle the students very rudely. I get a satisfaction through proper results. They can acquire a fighting temperament only if handled rudely. And of course their anger against me will be shown to the opponent. I believe it’s a psychological method. Since coaching is a trial and error method we need to use several methods to find out which brings out success. Once you find it out, success will always follow you. So as a coach I am rough but other wise I help my students and of course I have earned their goodwill.
Q: You received Dronacharya Award last year….?
A: Yeah I received Dronacharya award last year. There are 5 criteria’s for receiving the Dronacharya.1st is to win an Olympic medal and second a world Championship. Mine was in the second criteria. K.C.Lekha won Gold in World championship & Ashwathy mol won Bronze in Asian Championship. Both were my personal trainees. Apart from that India also received certain medals during 2006 season.
Q: How do you look forward as a coach?
A: Federation has got a lot of hope on us. To build up an even more active Indian Team is my aim. And personally I am attached to SAI Kollam. It is because 5 of my personal trainees here had done enough and well for the Nation, I received the Dronacharya award. Now I also have a fresh set of sub-junior girls and I am expecting a victory from them 3 yrs from now. Let them click slowly. If we try to burden them quickly there will be problems of injury. Last year we came first in the Asian Championship. This year we were third and so now rated a bit down. The reason is 5 of our major players got married including K.C Lekha and has not yet returned. Since it’s a game where experience matters, substitutions will take time. So that’s another task for me.
Q: During Olympics the whole Nation was looking forward to Athletics. Nobody has expected that India will gain a medal for Boxing in Olympics. But we did….
A: No it was not like that. We had hopes for medal. See India did not and can’t come up in athletics. We have P.T Usha who came up 4th in 400meters. At that time that event was newly introduced and due to Communist block many countries boycotted the Olympics. Another achievement was by Milkha Singh. Things are not so smooth. Olympic standard is very very high. In athletics we can measure where we are. Nobody from India reached the final round in any events and of course there were no good performances. The guy who did Triple Jump for India in Olympics did his training here and he used to jump 17.70meters. But at Beijing he could jump only 15 meters. At least more than 50 school students in Kerala can clear that distance. Anju Bobby George had never crossed more than 6.50 meters in that particular season. I wonder why she was sent for Olympics to cover 7 meters! We should not be fooled. And how she faired? For making 3 foul jumps…..even you can go and do it. Above all we spend a lot of money for her practice and she brought back shame for our country. But boxing is not like that. Boxers need to get qualified in Continental level. Only those boxers, who can win Gold and silver in Asian Qualifying Championship, will be able to participate in the Olympics. So from a Continent only six boxers in a single weight category can participate in the Olympics. Like wise there are 6 weight categories. Two months before this Olympics Vijender defeated Athens Gold medalist from Kazakhstan one sided. So we were all expecting an Olympic medal. A bit of luck should also be there. For example Akhil defeated world #1 to reach the Olympic Quarters but he was then defeated by world# 14. So consistency matters a lot.
Q: What’s the future of Indian Boxing?
A: For the last few years India is consistent in boxing and is also participating in many major meets including European Championships and meets in Canada. The importance of boxing is decreased as per the culture of India. Only 3 coaches are there for boxing in Kerala and 30 in India but for athletics there are more than 40 coaches in Kerala itself. For the next Olympics I don’t think that Vijender may get a medal even though he has the caliber. He is now behind modelling and cinemas and has no time for practice. Akhil will play and also Jithendhar.
Q: Now what we see is even a small boy holds a cricket bat and say he wants to become a Dhoni. May be they don’t know a sport other than Cricket. What’s the response to Boxing from the new Generation?
A: We can’t blame them. That’s because the game cricket is bringing much more fame, money & ads. But we should also think about the possibilities for that. For example Sreesanth….I don’t think he has a bright future. Of course….he has earned a lot. May be in a year or two, he’ll be out from the main stream cricket and once you are out, then you are nothing. Aby Kuruvilla came, Tinu Yohanan came. Now where are they? Half of the effort the young generation puts in cricket, if used wisely in another sport will help them reach some where. The problem is we are not getting enough of good students because they are all behind cricket. But any how the future of Indian Boxing is safe here because the emerging players get good training.