The pieces of the puzzle called the Indian Badminton League are slowly falling into place.
For long, the IBL looked a non-starter. But, with the advantage of hindsight, it appears that following a couple of postponements, the timing of the start of the million-dollar league could not have been better.
With P.V. Sindhu winning the country’s first-ever women singles medal from her maiden World championship — after Saina Nehwal and P. Kashyap had lost in the quarterfinals — Indian badminton seems to be on the right course.
Considering the string of successes inspired by Saina in the past year, it is not a surprise that the badminton world is taking note of the Indian talent like never before. India’s joy could have stood doubled had Kashyap converted his lone-match point against China’s Du Pengyuin the quarterfinals.
The IBL does provide Saina and Kashyap a timely opportunity to get over disappointments of Guangzhou They will not only enjoy the backing of their fans and the supporters of their respective city franchisees but also each time they face an overseas rival.
The lack of hype or build-up for the IBL could well prove a blessing in disguise. Since badminton is not known to attract huge crowds in the country, a gradual rise in interest into the second week of championship could well lead to a fitting finale in Mumbai.
The IBL should get undivided attention of the country’s sports lovers. That also could well mean the franchisees getting their money’s worth.
A potential game-changer in the country’s sporting scenario, the IBL promises to bring into focus some young Indian heroes, provided they lap up the opportunities.
Even in the past, when money was not part of the incentive, Prakash Nath, the first Indian to reach the All England final in 1947, Nandu Natekar, Dinesh Khanna, Suresh Goel, Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, P. Gopi Chand and Chetan Anand have enthralled the audience with their ‘touch’ and artistry. In recent times, Kashyap, Saina and the duo of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa have done their bit in the international arena and stand suitably rewarded.
Besides a never before bank-balance and exposure, the IBL offers the Indian players a fortnight of getting up-close with some of the elite names from the game. In the absence of the Chinese, World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei and women’s number two Juliane Schenk lead the star-parade.
More than the singles, the country’s doubles’ specialists stand to gain a great deal. With some of the world’s top doubles players making it to the IBL, there will be much to learn for Indian players and the coaches attached with various teams.
Should the IBL overcome the organisational and logistical challenges, the financial viability of such a mega exercise could well come in for some serious questioning.
Though the investment of each franchisee is much less than what their counterparts have put in the Indian Premier League, their income-generating avenues too are limited.
For the inaugural season, IBL’s commercial partner Sporty Solutionz, having done a wonderful job conceptualising the event, have subsidised a great deal for the franchisees.
The true picture of the commerce involved will be clear only in the second edition when more teams and players are likely to join the fray.
For now, it is time to wait for the action to unfold.