How it all came about

Pradeep Gandhe, who put his heart and soul into IBL.-VIVEK BENDRE

Last year, when the Indian Badminton League was being conceptualised, the Maharashtra Badminton Association was in the forefront. The MBA President and former International Pradeep Gandhe, a double-bronze medallist at the 1982 Asian Games, had a vision of badminton gaining from a league on the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

After testing the ground with the Maharashtra Badminton League, he approached the Badminton Association of India (BAI) with an idea of a pan-India league.

Gandhe, a resident of Mumbai’s Sportsfield, home to several illustrious sportspersons including cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar and Ravi Shastri, found a good response from BAI President Akhilesh Das Gupta. Soon the project was given a definite shape with the involvement of commercial partners, Sporty Solutionz.

“Without the whole-hearted backing of BAI, the IBL would not have been possible,” acknowledges Gandhe, a self-confessed cricket fan who is also the vice-chairman of the IBL’s Governing Council.

“I always believed that the kind of self-belief IPL gave to our young cricketers who got to interact closely with several established names from various countries, IBL was capable of bringing the same to our up and coming badminton stars. Today, I am so happy to see IBL getting unprecedented spectator response. The event has managed to turn many sports lovers into badminton lovers. For me, that is the biggest gain.”

Looking at the hurdles that confronted organising an event of this magnitude, Gandhe says, “From persuading and convincing everyone concerned that this concept could work, it was important to remember that we had no prior experience of organising anything remotely close to this. It was like holding six Super Series events in six cities within three weeks. One must remember that BAI, unlike the BCCI, does not own stadiums. At every venue, we had to compromise on several aspects, put up with reasonable and unreasonable demands at every venue and carry on with the sole intention of having a good event.”

With the IBL turning a success, Gandhe is not ready to rest. “We know there are several areas where we lacked. It is time to review every aspect threadbare and build on the gains.”

Such being the intensity and commitment of a former player to give something back to the game, badminton lovers can be assured that IBL is here to stay.

Rakesh Rao