Gopi: IBL takes the game to unexplored frontiers

Ahead of the second season of the Indian Badminton League, Pullela Gopichand speaks about its value to young shuttlers and the difference in Indians' stature in the international circuit since the last edition of the competition, in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

"The kind of interest and passion the IBL generated in the first edition in 2013 and the image it created was something really special," Gopi Chand says.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam (File Photo)

The second edition of the Indian Badminton League scheduled next January will have a change in the format with the introduction of women’s doubles. Every clash will now have only one men’s singles match and not two. However, there might not be any changes in the points format — the first to reach 21 will win the game and first to score 11 points in the decider will clinch it.

Huge interest

Reflecting on the IBL, India’s chief national coach P. Gopi Chand said the event is eagerly awaited not just by the Indian players but many foreign players as well. “The kind of interest and passion it generated in the first edition in 2013 and the image it created was something really special. It made many leading lights to seriously think of taking part in it,” said Gopi in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

“I am not supposed to speak on the likely changes in the format, but the IBL itself is an innovative concept and more innovations are naturally expected in it,” he said.

The 41-year-old former All England champion said the second edition was expected to be different in terms of the growing stature of the Indian shuttlers. “If you remember there were only a couple of big players from India, but now there are many, who have made an impact in the international circuit,” he said.

Huge learning curve

“The whole idea of IBL is very encouraging. It is not just about popularising the sport but is also about providing a perfect platform for the young talent to share space with some of the big names. That is a huge learning curve,” the chief national coach said.

Speaking from the perspective of a coach, he said, “As was the case in the first edition, it helps coaches to spot some of the young raw talent and groom them into champions. This gives us a clear perspective of how a young player with potential will handle pressure given the high-profile nature of the league.

“Essentially, the IBL helps in taking the game to unexplored frontiers of India as it is held in major cities unlike a World championship or an Asian meet which is confined to only one city. The players and fans are excited about the IBL and it will be a big hit again.”

Gopi said the presence of foreign players’ in the IBL works both ways. “Actually, I think it should be more helpful for us. Any player who faces or trains with some of the best in the business should be much better off both in terms of technique and confidence,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of the IBL in an Olympic year. “Well, 2016 being the year of Olympics qualification in Rio, the IBL could well be just the perfect start to the year’s badminton calendar. It gives the players a chance to make a critical assessment, in terms of their fitness and game too, as to where exactly they stand,” Gopi said.

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