|Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu during the inauguration of the Indian Badminton
League, in New Delhi, on Tuesday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi: The status of PV Sindhu in Indian badminton has changed since the World Championships. From being in the shadow of superstars like Sania Nehwal, she is now poised to be the new star on the horizon.
On Tuesday, when the 18-year-old World Championship bronze medallist made a late entry for the trophy unveiling function of the $1 million Indian Badminton League (IBL), her new-found status was obvious. She was late due to a delayed flight.
She showed immense maturity in replying to the queries from the waiting reporters. While showing confidence that the inaugural IBL would be a huge hit, she also hinted that next time she takes on Ratchanok Inthanon, the result would be different.
“It was my first World Championships and for me beating two Chinese players in a row was a great thing. I am very happy to have got the bronze medal. And now that I have also come to know that my name has been recommended for the Arjuna Award, I am elated.
“Against Ratchanok (in the semi-final), my problem was that I gave away some negative points...she also played very well and mixed her game well. But next time, it is going to be a different game between us,” said Sindhu.
The lanky girl, however, said her focus would now be on IBL, which will kick off with a match between Krrish Delhi Smashers and Pune Piston at the Siri Fort Auditorium on Wednesday. Sindhu is part of the Awadhe Warriors squad.
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) has created the six city-based franchises -- Hyderabad Hotshots, Banga Beats, Krrish Delhi Smashers, Awadhe Warriors, Pune Pistons and Mumbai Masters – following the cash-rich IPL in cricket. Each team will comprise six Indians, four foreigners and a junior Indian player.
Olympic medallist Saina Nehwal (Hyderabad Hotshots) said the consistency of the Indian badminton players would help to make IBL popular. “Cricket’s IPL is a big hit because India play consistently well in international cricket. The Hockey India League (HIL) would have been equally successful, but sadly, India are not doing too well in hockey these days.
“But in badminton, I have played consistently well. Other Indians are also playing well in the international circuit now. I am sure the IBL would make badminton more popular in India and produce better players than Saina Nehwal,” she said.
Though top Chinese players have decided to stay away, most other top stars, including world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, will play.. Wei is expected to be in the capital by Wednesday evening.
Each tie will have five matches -- a women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and two men’s singles. The top four franchises will clash in the semi-finals. The final will take place in Mumbai on August 31.
The IBL rules aim to garner more more spectator interest. In the group stage, all five matches in a contest will have to be completed even if a team wins the first three. But in the semi-finals, the team winning the first three advances to the final and will not have to play the remaining two matches.
The league will also have a different points format. Though the first two games will be a race to 21 points without the standard two-point gap, the third game will be a race to 11.
There will be two one-minute breaks at seven and 14 points, respectively, in each of the first two games while the third game will have a break at the sixth point.
Meanwhile, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are are still upset about the manner their base prices were slashed during the IBL auction.
As if to drive home the point that it was wrong to reduce their base price to $25,000 from $50,000, the former World championship bronze medalists chose the trophy unveiling function of the IBL on Tuesday to air their grievances.
While admitting that IBL will help the sport become faster and aggressive, Jwala said the attitude of the authorities and the system is not in favour of doubles. “One should take doubles more seriously," said Jwala. The attitude and the system is not right. Changes are needed. I think, in India, the doubles players have done very well.”
Ashwini, on the other hand, said doubles players should be encouraged. “We need a push. The doubles does not deserve the step-motherly treatment it is receiving at the moment.”