A work in progress

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Gopichand

The atmosphere was electrifying. The crowd was ecstatic as they cheered the home team. The final of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 2016 was being held at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi. A riveting game of badminton was on and Delhi Acers did not disappoint the home crowd. In the final match, they pitted Britain’s ace shuttler Rajiv Ouseph against Mumbai Rockets RMV Gurusaidutt, one of India’s top-ranked players. Eventually, the Acers defeated Mumbai Rockets in an emphatic manner.

The fans were delirious with joy at the venue. It was probably for the first time that the PBL had witnessed such frenzy. The PBL, officially, began in 2013 as the Indian Badminton League (IBL), but it survived only one season. The league did not take place between 2014-2015. It ran into trouble due to various issues.

However, it returned this year in the form of PBL after a gap of two years and it turned out to be quite successful. It is one of the few badminton tournaments in the world that offers huge prize money. For India’s current badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, PBL is one of the best sports leagues the country has witnessed in recent years.

“The format and the way matches have taken place, I would say it has exceeded my expectations,” Gopichand tells Tehelka.

The PBL’s main aim is to promote badminton in India. For this, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) launched a programme called ‘Shuttle India’. “It is a (good) platform for the young guns at the grassroot level to take up the sport as a career option and Shuttle India is an initiative in that direction,” said BAI President Akhilesh Das Gupta while announcing the return of the IBL as PBL. “With schools from across six cities taking part (in the programme), we are expecting huge participation of students who are also getting formal training at the local level.”

PBL is an ideal learning exercise for Indian players. It helps them to interact with top seeded national, as well as international players. “I think every player is sharing the bench, sharing moments with top players… in that respect I think the PBL is going to be very good for budding talents,” says Gopichand.

Praising the league, Mathias Boe, a former World No1 doubles player from Denmark representing the Mumbai Rockets in the PBL, says, “There is a lot of potential and there are a few world class players in India. The sport is growing a lot and it is getting attention from media also. For the people who want to play the sport, that’s really good.” He also added that badminton in India is blooming and upcoming players are benefitting from this as well.