‘IBL is just another tournament’

The chief National coach emphasises the importance of having regular badminton camps apart from the IBL camp, writes J. R. Shridharan.

The chief National badminton coach Pullela Gopi Chand is a worried man.

He said that the success of the Indian Badminton League (IBL) has brought to the fore several pressing issues and topping the list is the impact of big money on young minds. And he emphasised the importance of having regular badminton camps apart from the IBL camp.

“These camps are meant to bring the players back to normal life — mentally. A fortnight-long deluxe lifestyle such as staying in five-star hotels, relishing multi-national cuisines, hectic air travels and constant media glare can bring in certain negative traits which will be detrimental to their careers. The normal camps will help them realise that IBL is just another tournament, not the way of life,” the Dronacharya Awardee told Sportstar en route to Tanuku, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, recently.

He felt the regular camps would be crucial as there is a likelihood of more entertainment elements entering the future leagues to attract the attention of the television viewers. “There may be more distractions. After all, the success and sustainability of the league depends on the television ratings.”

The former all-England champion said the ‘big money syndrome’ may not affect the top players as they will be on their toes preparing for a string of competitive tournaments. “There is no time to relax and enjoy life. Their BWF schedule is packed and they will be travelling to countries on a weekly basis to participate in back-to-back tournaments. They will have a freefall if they go astray.”

However, he felt the focus should be more on the fringe players. “The possibility of such players losing focus is more. They may get overawed by the razzmatazz and glitz. Here, the role of the administrators, parents, coaches and psychologists assumes significance.”

Gopi Chand said the IBL’s success was possible due to the presence of top Indian shuttlers such as Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu and P. Kashyap who set the tempo by hogging the limelight in the BWF World Championships in Guangzhou, before the league. “The crowd came to watch them and when they started winning for their franchises, they (the crowd) began to swell. The much-hyped Saina vs Sindhu ties also helped in achieving a good turnout.”

Gopi Chand plans to discuss with the administrators on introducing shuttles with speed levels of One, Zero and Minus-One instead of the existing One, Two and Three. “The speed of the shuttle is determined by material, weight, temperature, humidity, air pressure and altitude. The temperature at the venue will vary from time to time. As it is mandatory that three speed levels should be used, I would like to go in for 1, 0 and -1 as they are more suitable for India’s tropical weather. Birdies with One and Zero speed levels are already in use and I would like to ask Yonex, the manufacturers, to produce Minus-One shuttles exclusively for the second edition of the IBL.”

He said many were of the view that the existing speed levels (1-2-3) produced shorter rallies. “Even the slowest of the shuttle — Speed 1 — was found to be fast in Hyderabad. By introducing the Minus-One birdies, which would be light in weight, the number of rallies will increase. Longer rallies will be a feast for the audience, but there is another element of worry. There is every possibility of the birdie losing its life after long rallies.”

He said the promotion of badminton depends on television audience and efforts will be made to make the league more interesting. “The success of the league relies on the franchises making profits. When they (franchises) make money, it will be ploughed back into the league. Each franchise has spent around Rs. 7-8 crore so far and they expect to make profits from the third or fourth season onwards. Cricket’s Indian Premium League can survive without television audience, as thousands of fans come to the stadium to watch a match. But for the IBL, television viewership is more important, as less number of spectators watch the action in indoor stadiums.”

Gopi Chand said efforts should be made by the franchises and the IBL governing council to keep the buzz going throughout the year. “Just like the IPL, we should popularise the names of the franchises. They should become household names. We should draw a plan involving the available players and coaches of each franchise to stage friendly tournaments in schools and colleges in their region. As most of the top players will be on national duty, the fringe players can be used for the promotional activity.”

He also came up with a new idea — Badminton Nights — an inter-franchise tournament with all the frills and thrills until the scheduling of the league. He said that staging the second edition will be a real test as 2014 will witness two major international events — the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games — besides the packed BWF and BAI calendar.