Not another IPL; we’re badminton

The worst compliment India's non-cricket sports can pay the IPL is aping it. For one, it smacks of lack of original ideas.

Also, in a season when IPL has shown itself to be vulnerable after the Chargers saga, and legal wrangles with other franchises, you'd think imitation would cease being the sincerest forms of flattery.

Another minor technicality. The latest in the offing — the Indian Badminton League — draws generous inspiration from the IPL, but there's that ingredient called cricket missing. There's no polite way to say this — IPL worked because the sport was cricket. The sport's number of followers and the traditional connect aren't faked, never mind the over-kill.

But sporting properties are quite the fad, so badminton — with its superlative performances, clean image and credible icons Prakash Padukone and P Gopichand — has every right to take a shot at 'league' glory. How well the gig is eventually received will be a later-day story.

The problems start from the foundation. Saina Nehwal is a world class player but her compatriots are yet to strike the sort of consistency that can lead one to believe that this pool is self-sufficiently healthy.

Global badminton has its own cautionary precedents. The Indonesian league, conceptualised in 2003, had to wait till 2007 to take off, but stopped abruptly and has resurfaced only last year. The Chinese club league struggles with issues of club vs country — Lin Dan, paid 1.2 lac USD to appear for a club, is still pulled back when he up against his foreign rivals.

While the money coming in is welcome, inflated earnings for mediocre players in a small-pool sport like badminton will be damaging. You also don't want a scenario like in boxing, where post Vijender, India floated a franchise in World Series Boxing, only to withdraw a season on, realising the talent well doesn't run deep.

... contd.

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