The icons of badminton and cricket often forget it was the domestic tournaments that facilitated their rise to the top
The curtains came down on the 76th Senior National Badminton Championship in Bangalore on Wednesday. The tournament was indeed another success story for the organisers — the Karnataka Badminton Association team led by secretary, N.C. Sudhir, president Jayaraj and tournament director and former national champion U. Vimal Kumar.
Though there were a lot of positives in the event, it was disappointing that some of the top stars chose to keep away citing one reason or the other. Saina Nehwal, the best known face of Indian badminton, who is ranked World no. 4, of course, had her reasons to stay out as she has been playing non-stop on the international circuit for the past few months; she needed a break. Moreover, the gulf between Saina and the rest of the Indian women players is so wide that it would have been a no-contest for her. But her presence would have served as a huge advertisement for the game organisers and would have brought in more crowds.
There were other notable absentees like P. Kashyap, Jwala Gutta and Ajay Jayaram, who pulled out citing injuries. So did the former national champion Chetan Anand, who made an appearance at the tournament only to concede his match as he was nursing a toe injury.
The spate of ‘no-shows' made fans wonder if the National championship has lost its importance. Badminton legends like Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar insist that Nationals should remain the premier tournament of the game in the country.
During his illustrious career, Padukone, despite being a world beater and an all–England champion, made it a point to play the Nationals whenever he was in the country.
He won a record nine men's singles titles.
But the scenario has changed now, with world rankings taking precedence over national rankings. Players now tend to play more international tournaments to improve their world standing rather than worry about their national rankings.
“We are not averse to playing in the domestic circuit. But we get to know about the events in the domestic circuit only a fortnight in advance, by which time we commit to taking part in international tournaments,” says Chetan.
The onus is indeed on the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to work out a proper domestic circuit schedule in advance.
Skipping Nationals is not confined to badminton alone. In cricket too, the so-called icons of the game hardly participate in domestic tournaments like the Ranji Trophy and pick and choose their matches if at all they wish to play. They often forget that it was the domestic system and tournaments that paved their rise to the top.
What is necessary is a right blend of domestic and international events for players and it should be made mandatory.
The Badminton Association of India seems to be making a determined move in that direction.
According to vice-president of BAI Muralidharan, the association has decided to make it mandatory for all top players to take part in national-ranked tournaments and the Nationals. It will be interesting to watch how BAI is going to enforce this rule.