Sportspersons often complain about the divine treatment given to cricket in India. Whatever said and done, they just can’t ignore the fact that cricket is a religion here. But of late, it is cricket that has given a reason to others sports to cheer!
The cricket phenomenon called Indian Premier League (IPL) gave rise to ideas – ideas to start league patterns in other sports, to cash in the league fame and attract sports lovers in a unique way. The package is simple – bind the aficionados in the love for their own cities. Bring in some popular sports icons. Let those who are opponents on national teams, play as a team together! Add the right mix of players and just the right amount of publicity and the league is ready! This mixture has immensely added to the popularity of cricket. The latest to join the bandwagon is badminton. We hear of the tennis league joining soon.
The Indian Badminton League (IBL), after a lot of hullabaloo over delay in auction and fuming players over auction price, is right on track. Plus, what an amazing timing by PV Sindhu to win a bronze for India in World Badminton Championships! She has generated enough curiosity among Indians in the sport!
Not that badminton is unheard of, but it is only in temporary phases that fans follow the game. India has had likes of artistic shot maker Prakash Padukone, the first Indian to reach the All England final in 1947, Prakash Nath, Nandu Natekar, Suresh Goel, Pullela Gopi Chand and Chetan Anand. In recent years, the extraordinary Saina Nehwal, the duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa along with Parupalli Kashyap has set the international stage on fire.
Now with PV Sindhu’s winning flow, IBL is hopefully going to see a surge in audience. Though comparing it with IPL or cricket’s popularity would be irrational.
Terming the USD 1 million league as historic, Pullela Gopichand is ecstatic about the idea. Of course what Gopichand has done for the sport training and coaching is another story.
The IBL will begin its inaugural season on August 14 with some of biggest names of world badminton arena.
With six teams - Krish Delhi Smashers, Awadhe Warriors, Pune Pistons, Mumbai Masters, Banga Beats, Hyderabad Hotshots – fans have enough options to choose their teams and get set go!
The Badminton League has stars of its own. Seeing the Indian shuttlers in same team as their foreign counterparts will surely be interesting. And of course, who wouldn’t want to see Saina Nehwal competing with PV Sindhu, or Jwala Gutta versus Ashwini Ponappa? The thrill evoked is electrifying. Though the dominant Chinese presence will be missed, but the presence of men’s world number one Lee Chong Wei and women’s number two Juliane Schenk is sure to generate curiosity.
The local players will get a huge boost playing with the high profile names of the game in same team. Practicing with their foreign counterparts will surely be of great advantage to them. And for India, the emerging shuttlers will get good grooming lessons. The monetary benefit is an added boost.
The league pattern might also generate interest in badminton at grass root levels. There might be emergence of whole new generation that will love to play the racket game. What will happen and what will not, only time will tell! And we as timekeepers will see, how much the theme song ‘Net lagao, pyar badhao’ makes the Indians fall madly in love with the sport.