For a sport that originated in India in the 1800s, it is only fitting that the tournament with the biggest prize money in the world is being played here. Invented by the British, badminton has been mainly looked upon as a part-time sport over the years and was considered as good ‘exercise’. Barring the sporadic achievements of Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi in the 1980s, it was Pullela Gopichand’s triumph at the prestigious All-England Championships in 2001 that truly spurred a growth in the sport’s profile in the country.
Today, badminton is widely considered to be the second-most popular sport in India after cricket. The likes of Olympic medalists Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have become household names with even Olympic gold medalist Carolina Marin being very popular. Players like Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa among others, too have quite the fan following.
With more youngsters taking up badminton in India, the opportunity to train, play and witness some of the top players in action on home soil could prove to be a boon for them as well as the millions of fans hungry for some world-class action. The Premier Badminton League (PBL) ticks all those boxes while providing an extra incentive for the players to come to India and showcase their talent.
With the format of the tournament involving city-based franchises and a few tweaks in rules to spice up the game, PBL has the potential to make a similar impact for badminton as witnessed with other sports in the country. A wider talent pool of players, to pick from who are stronger and richer with their experience of rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business, could do wonders for India. Plus, the audience gets a fix of high-octane action and entertainment with the participating players benefiting financially too, making this a win-win for all.