The crafty drop shots and engaging dribble-rally at the net charge up the badminton buffs in an arena.

The likes of Suresh Goel, Nandu Natekar, Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi were held in high esteem by illustrious Asian and European opponents of their times because of their skilful use of the racket to blunt power with subtle and deft shots to wrong-foot and hoodwink them.

Experts believe that a player is said to be sound if he or she is able to consistently execute the high and low clear strokes and the drop shots played deftly, firmly and accurately. But there is also the push, stab, tap and the rush shot that make up the net-interception play, which sends the pulse racing and has become part and parcel of singles and doubles play.

On Monday evening the Vodafone IBL action took place at the National Sports Club of India and Hyderabad Hotshots demonstrated its strength in no uncertain terms with Saina Nehwal turning out to be the darling of the crowd. But what also kept the large turn out at the edge of their seats and captured their imagination was the dexterity shown by Ajay Jayaram and Saina in particular close to the net.

Former England fast bowler Frank `Typhon’ Tyson once said that Indians are good at sleight of hand; he was referring to the success of the India’s spinners like Mankad, Gupte, Chandra, Bedi, Prasanna and Venkat. He even named Ramanathan Krishnan. Tyson made this observation when Aparna Popat was in her fledgling years and worked with Tyson at the Cricket Club of India.

In the first IBL match in Mumbai, Jayaram used a good defensive technique, drop shots and control over net play to outwit his Vietnamese opponent Tien Minh Nguyen in straight games and Saina staged a remarkable come back with some deadly smashes on the flanks and of course excelling at net play, many of them turning to be winners.

For a few years now the authorities have been promising to bring the Indian Open to city; it looks like a far-fetched dream now. But the city got the first taste of high-quality badminton in many years in the form of the IBL with Saina taking the centre stage. The likes of Jayaram, Saina and German Juliane Juliane Schenk pulled out their best strokes from their wide repertoire and kept the audience spellbound.

Talking of net play and the art of dribbling legend Natekar said: “I was good and Prakash too; probably Prakash was better. In our times the game was not very fast and there was not much of dribbling. There were rallies galore, but today the game is very fast and one looks for an opening. And this can be possible only through net play and dribble whereupon the shuttle needs to be lifted to be back in the game. Almost all the players engage in dribble and good net play, including Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. Dribbling has become key part of a game plan,’’ said Natekar

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