After a stellar run in the Indian Badminton League (IBL) winning seven matches on the trot and emerging as player of the tournament, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal said she believed the tournament would catch up with the cricket’s mega event Indian Premier League (IPL).
“No one expected IBL to be this successful. In the long run, I’m sure we will catch up with IPL,” she said.
The shuttle festival which held badminton in a new avatar did not have cheerleaders or a film star doing a cartwheel but it did have commodification of sport. Though the disc jockey played signature party songs during the ‘strategic time-outs’, the crowd went berserk when the title sponsor’s jingle was played aloud.
The amount of money that flowed in the first season surprised Saina though she said “it will only do good to the shuttlers”.
Saina looked at the brighter side citing the rise of shuttlers like K.Srikanth and the ones waiting in the queue.
“It is going to get tough next year as more singles players will come in.”
When asked about the IPL format of equal number of home and away matches, the Hyderabad Hotshots icon player declared how she would love to play more matches in her own backyard. “But it is for the IBL organisers to decide.
The crowd was fantastic in Hyderabad,” she added.
IBL has largely been successful in packaging the sport attractively. A lot of youngsters thronged the venues with chants of “Go Ajay” and “Come on Saina Didi.” There was also lot of cheer for sport’s pin-up girl Ashwini Ponnappa.
There was always crowd cheering for her, sometimes even when she was not playing.
China, the powerhouse of badminton, who stayed away from inaugural IBL may show up next year. But Saina said their presence in IBL “may add to their popularity but it is not an issue for her as world’s top players are playing the IBL”.