It certainly grabbed eyeballs but how much of an effect Saina Nehwal in cricket pads — asking viewers whether the image was enough to think about badminton — will have on the sport in India will be known starting 14 August.
The much anticipated Indian Badminton League — the richest badminton league in the world — starts in Delhi before ending on 31 August in Mumbai. And while controversy has dogged organisers in the run-up to the tournament, they'll certainly hope to end all arguments with a fine show.
With the number of Indian players in the top twenty across all categories in the world increasing by the year, badminton is widely considered to be the second most popular sport in India after cricket. The world-beating Chinese players may have given the league a pass, but India's top stars and Lee Chong Wei are worth the price of admission.
Six teams — Krrish Delhi Smashers, Mumbai Masters, Pune Pistons, Awadhe Warriors, Hyderabad Hotshots, Banga Beat — will battle it out in the league stage, after which the top four teams will enter the semifinal stage.
Most ties will start at 8pm India time, with only three of them scheduled to start at 4 pm (ESPN and Star Sports 2 will broadcast the games live). The match-day experience is what we're really waiting for, but what we know is that it will consist of five matches — two men's singles matches, a women's singles match, a men's doubles match and a mixed doubles match.
Every match will be a best of three games, with the third game a race to 11 points. In the first two games, the two-point gap rule has been dropped, so the first player to reach 21 points wins. There'll be a minute's break after the seventh and 14th points in the first two games and after the sixth point in third and final game.
Mumbai Masters: World No 1 Lee Chong Wei is the obvious trump card and the most expensive player in the IBL ($135,000). But even apart from him, Mumbai also boast of former World No 1 in women's singles Tine Baun. The two internationals will be joined by the tall and formidable Russian Vladimir Ivanov and promising Indian youngsters Rasika Raje and PC Thulasi.
Lineup: Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia), Pranav Chopra, Tine Baun (Denmark), Marc Zwiebler (Germany), Vladimir Ivanov (Russia), Siki Reddy, Manu Attri, P. C. Thulasi, Sumeet Reddy, Rasika Raje, Harsheel Dani.
Krrish Delhi Smashers: Delhi look absolutely brilliant on paper. Jwala Gutta is their icon player while world No 12 Wong Wing Ki and the world no 2 mixed doubles pair of Boon Heong Tan/Kien Kiat Koo complete a fine lineup of players. The talented Prajakta Sawant will also ply her trade for Delhi.
Lineup: Jwala Gutta, Wong Wing Ki, H. S. Prannoy, Sai Praneeth, Arundhati Pantawane, Boon Heong Tan (Malaysia), Kien Keat Koo (Malaysia), V. Diju, Nichaon Jindapon (Thailand), Prajakta Sawant.
Hyderabad Hotshots: India's most famous badminton player Saina Nehwal will headline their matches, but Hyderabad also boast of Pradnya Gadre, Tarun Kona and Ajay Jayaram — all regular names on the badminton circuit. Jayaram recently beat world No 12 Wing Ki Wong at the Badminton World Championships.
Lineup: Saina Nehwal, Pradnya Gadre, Tarun Kona, Ajay Jayaram, Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia), Tanongsak (Thailand), Goh V Shem (Malaysia), Lim Khim Wah (Malaysia), Kanthi Visalakshi P., Shubhankar Dey, C. Rahul Yadav.
Awadhe Warriors: PV Sindhu, fresh from her bronze medal exploits at the Worlds will be the one to watch. Saina Nehwal vs PV Sindhu is the marquee fixture of the tournament and the young Sindhu is easily the strongest player on the Awadhe roster. Among the internationals, Markis Kido is ranked No 9 in mixed doubles and Wei Feng is ranked 12th in men's singles.
Lineup: P.V. Sindhu, Gurusai Dutt, K. Srikanth, Ruthvika Shivani, K. Maneesha, Nanda Gopal, Vinay Singh, Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Thailand), Markis Kido (Indonesia), Chong Wei Feng (Malaysia).
Banga Beats: World No 17 P Kashyap heads Banga Beats' lineup but world No 6 Hu Yun is the one to really beware. Carsten Mogensen is ranked sixth in the world in men's doubles in a team which could give some tough competition — especially in the men's categories.
Lineup: Parupalli Kashyap, Hu Yun (Hong Kong), Carsten Mogensen (Denmark), Akshay Dewalkar, Tai Tzu-ying (Chinese Taipei), Aparna Balan, Carolina Marín (Spain), Arvind Bhat, Aditya Prakash, J. Meghana, Daniel Farid
Pune Pistons: Icon or no icon, on paper, Ashwini Ponnappa is the most recognisable Indian in the team. But world No 7 Nguyen Tien Minh is another top attraction. But world no 2 Juliane Schenk will shoulder most of the responsibility when it comes to beating top dogs Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
Lineup: Ashwini Ponnappa, Nguyen Tien Minh (Vietnam), Saurabh Verma, Anup Sridhar, Juliane Schenk (Germany), Joachiam Fischer Nielsen, Sanave Thomas, Arun Vishnu, Tan Wee Kiong (Malaysia), Rupesh Kumar K. T.
Click here for the full schedule of the IBL.
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Updated Date: Aug 14, 2013 07:26:14 IST