Lord of the strings

Lord of the strings
The new year has started off on a positive note for badminton enthusiasts with the third edition of the Premier Badminton League starting on January 1, marking the beginning of the sporting calendar in the country. Founded in 2013 as the Indian Badminton League, the tournament is off to a rocky start this year after the owners of one of the teams, ‘Mumbai Rockets’, pulled out ‘due to environmental and financial challenges’.

The team will still compete as new owners were found but it was something of a dampener for the much-awaited event which was further clouded over by allegations of rule bending to accommodate some teams. Nevertheless, something is better than nothing and aficionados welcome the event in the hope that it will bolster the interest in badminton, which is riding on a wave of popularity after the recent successes of Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu.

Says Rohit Venugopal, professional and badminton enthusiast, “Badminton is enjoying immense popularity in the country thanks to some great athletes performing at the highest levels. This event is going to build on that success and hopefully truly launch the sport in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities across the country. It is also a wonderful platform for Indian players to rub shoulders and be teammates with the cream of the sport. Overall the league will surely help the sport to grow in the country but more importantly it will help bring the game into public consciousness which is otherwise overwhelmed with cricket. Thankfully there is no series in the first half of January for cricket so that should be a good boost as well.”

“It is a great initiative from the Badminton Association of India,” says Avinash Kumbhar, another badminton buff. “The appeal of the game has increased and tournaments like these will push players to perform as well as give them a platform to showcase their talent.” Charchita Pramanik, founder of ‘Crazy Shuttlers’, an e-club for badminton enthusiasts, feels that while the game has been getting it’s rightful share of attention in recent time, such meets will definitely help in promoting the sport and increasing the attraction for games other than cricket.

“Most of us at the club are planning to go for it. It will be a great chance to see international players as well as our very own heroes.” Asked about who she wants to see in action, Charchita’s reply is prompt. “P V Sindhu, of course. She is the star of badminton right now.” What about Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, who overcame Sindhu in the inaugural match in Hyderabad.

“Yes, it would be wonderful to see her too. She has technique, flair and everything else going for her. As a player, I admire her but as an Indian, I adore Sindhu and really hopes she wins,” Charchita says with a smile. “New concepts are coming up in this game and a lot of parents are showing an interest in sending their children to learn badminton now,” adds Avinash. “This happens when a particular sport starts coming up.”

But is there a concern that the glitz, glamour and money involved will take the focus away from the sport — an echo of doubts that were raised when the IPL was introduced? “It is true that the focus was more on entertainment in IPL but cricket was already at a different level at that time,” explains Avinash.

 “But that is not the case with badminton. People are hardly excited about going for a badminton match and thus we need all the attention we can get. There is a need to push the game more. Also, cricket is a team sport. Badminton is about reflexes. You can win only if you are the best and nothing can change this,” he asserts.

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