Silence is not always golden

Both the pairings, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta and Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar (down) feel they were short-changed.-PTI Both the pairings, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta and Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar (down) feel they were short-changed.

Controversies sometimes help in keeping alive the buzz around an event. But going by the way things have shaped up so far with the IBL, many more might well be in the offing and prove detrimental to the event, writes Rakesh Rao.

Sometimes, timely communication can avert a crisis or controversy. Proper decimation of information, to all concerned, can prevent unsavoury situations. If the Indian Badminton League was in the news for the wrong reasons minutes after the players’ auction, the Badminton Association of India’s lack of experience of handling anything of this magnitude had much to do with it.

Right from the first announcement of the IBL, in October last, the BAI has struggled to get its act together, clear communication not being on its list of priorities.

It was initially announced that the format of the event would be the one followed in the World team championship for the Sudirman Cup — singles and doubles for men and women in addition to the mixed doubles. Though deliberations were on regarding the possibility of substituting the women’s doubles with a second men singles match, there was no official announcement confirming the change.

As the BAI President Akhilesh Das Gupta said, “it was decided to change the format last year itself. All the players knew it.” But several players, coaches and those associated with the BAI maintain that the change of format was firmed up only weeks before the thrice-postponed auction took place.

Once the IBL’s Governing Council had decided to do away with the women’s doubles owing to the lack of doubles specialists and appeal, it was always going to be difficult to expect franchisees to shell out a minimum of $50,000 each for Jwala or Ashwini. After all, Jwala and Ashwini have gained their status by virtue of their World championship bronze and the 2010 Commonwealth gold in the doubles.

When, in the early hours of the day of the auction, the base price for Jwala and Ashwini was slashed to $25,000, the players had reasons to feel hurt. The two had maintained that they were neither officially informed of a change in format nor the revision of their base prices. Obviously peeved at being treated “shabbily” and in a “disgusting manner” they gave vent to their feelings in the media.

Ashish Chadha, the CEO of Sporty Solutionz, explained, “The deliberations with the franchisees ended only around 4 a.m. on the day of the auction. With the advantage of hindsight, I agree that despite the constraint of time, I should have apprised the players of the reduction in their base prices and explained the reasons behind the decision. The players remain our icons and we did our best to ensure that they suffered no financial loss. I admit we could have handled the situation better. I see their point.”

PTI

What must have surely added to the pain of Jwala and Ashwini was the fact that lesser-known doubles specialist Pradnya Gadre (base price $10,000) was bought by Hyderabad for $46,000, much more than what Jwala ($31,000) and Ashwini ($25,000) managed.

To add to the controversy, the former National men’s doubles champions Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar alleged that their base prices, too, were reduced to $5,000 (from $15,000). Both were eventually bought at their base price by Pune. Fighting fitness and form, the duo is currently going through a low after having played for the country for several years. The base price was decided by IBL’s Governing Council based on certain parameters, including the performances and current ranking of the players.

Controversies sometimes help in keeping alive the buzz around the event. But going by the way things have shaped up so far, many more might well be in the offing and prove detrimental to the event.

As Chief coach P. Gopi Chand put it, “We can do without controversies. The real challenge of the IBL has just begun. We don’t have control of the stadia at various venues. The logistics and other aspects will have to be dealt with in consultation with the concerned franchisees and the state associations.

“Being the first time, there will be teething troubles. I can only hope that the event gets support from all quarters. After all, the IBL is set to help the game in India in the long run. We better look at the brighter side and move on.”