The inaugural season of Indian Badminton League (IBL) has kicked off after facing teething problems. Though it is difficult to predict the future of this IPL-style league, consisting six teams – Delhi Smashers, Pune Pistons, Mumbai Masters, Awadhe Warriors, Banga Beats and Hyderabad Hotshots - one thing is sure that if it clicks, it would be a timely boost for Indian badminton.
The absence of Chinese players is surely a drawback for the tournament organizers, but after going through the initial hiccups, be it related to base price of a few players or the rules and style of the league, it has already earned decent publicity in a cricket crazy country. And as they say publicity is publicity, be it negative or positive.
I think badminton is the only game in India after cricket that is being played by a lot of people, either professionally or just for fun. From schools to offices, from kids to adults, everybody is keen to try their hands at badminton.
In the past, there were very few Indian shuttlers who made a name for themselves internationally. Few names which we fondly remember are that of Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand and Aparna Popat, though Prakash played in different era all together. But at the moment we have a bunch of players who are well known in the badminton world. While star players like Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnapa, PV Sindhu and P Kashyap have established themselves, lesser-known players like Sai Praneeth, Ajay Jayaram, Gurusai Datt, and HS Prannoy are also making steady progress in the world of badminton.
And the man behind most of these badminton prodigies is none other than Pullela Gopichand. This All England Champion has been working hard in his academy day in and day out to give these shuttlers proper infrastructure, coaches, training and even meals. From being an excellent player to an outstanding coach, Pullela has certainly come a long way. His dedication towards his wards is such that he reaches his academy at 4.30 am and leaves around 6 pm. One can say that the future of this sport is in safe hands.
Coming back to IBL, one thing is for sure that these young Indian shuttlers will get a golden chance to lock horns with world class players like Lee Chong Wei (World number one from Malaysia), Mathias Boe, Taufik Hidayat, Hu Yun, Juliane Schenk, Tai Tzu Ying, Tine Baun and many more. And spending time with them means it’s a win-win situation for promising Indian shuttlers.
The timing of PV Sindhu’s bronze medal in her debut World Badminton Championships, after beating top Chinese players, couldn’t have come at a better time. And the 18-year-old added further excitement to the IBL with her statement where she said, "My immediate target is to excel in the next two weeks at the Indian Badminton League. I am ready to play against Saina and will try to give my best performance. Hope it will be a good show.’ It would be a rare sight to watch two top female Indian shuttlers play against each other. And that’s the best part about IBL.
IBL will also bring in a lot of money for the players. It is another major factor that will encourage the youngsters to take up this sport. Danish player and silver medalist in London Olympics in men’s doubles, Mathias Boe recently said that money is far better in the IBL when compared with the Danish league and if the first season is successful, then half the job is done, as there is a huge potential in India.
All you fans out there, now it’s time to back your second favorite sport, either by watching it on TV or by thronging the stadiums. So let’s make this inaugural season of IBL a smash hit.