Premier Badminton League makes a return after a gap of one year
ormer All-England men’s singles winner P Gopichand, 42, feels that the badminton world is looking forward to the trailblazing ‘Trump Match’ in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) with great interest.
The player-turned-coach who has shaped the career of many shuttlers at his Hyderabad academy, doesn’t recall a ‘Trump Match’ format being followed in any part of the world. Neither does Ram Nayyar, the Mumbai Rockets coach from Canada, nor Mathias Boe, Denmark’s doubles specialist, have an idea of theconcept.
The PBL is set to start at Mumbai’s National Sports Club of India (NSCI) on January 2, and the opening tie between actor Akshay Kumar-promoted Mumbai Rockets and Lucknow’s Awadh Warriors will offer thefirst glimpse of how players will cope up with the pressure situation of a ‘Trump Match’. The Rockets comprise men’s singles players HS Prannoy and RMV Gurusaidutt, women’s singles exponents Han Li, LiuZi Die (both China), India’s promising Ruthvika Shivani Gadde, men’s doubles experts Boe, Russian Vladimir Ivanov, India’s Manu Attri, Singapore’s Chayut Triyachart and women’s doubles expert from Denmark, Kamilla Juhl.
Explaining the reasons for introducing the concept of ‘Trump Match’ that will boost the winning team’s position in a five-match tie by one bonus point, Gopichand, said: “Every team has to nominate its ‘Trump Match’ from among its five matches. The two teams can nominate the same match as its ‘Trump Match’. This has to be done 90 minutes before the tie starts, after which the broadcaster and the technical officials will determine the order of matches.”
Taking the rationale of ‘Trump Match’ forward, Gopichand said: “This actually ensures that the last two matches are also important. You will never have a case wherein the fourth match is inconsequential. Even if you have a 3-0 lead in a tie, you can still lose. It keeps the spectators interested till the very end. This is the very reason why the ‘Trump Match’ was introduced in the first place. It remains to be seen how players react to it. Sometimes, you can feel the extra pressure; some players may play better, while others may crack under pressure.”
PBL rules state that a team can nominate a player for a ‘Trump Match’ only twice during the league and once during the knockouts (semifinals and final). If a player is nominated for the same in the semifinal, he cannot be nominated for the final. “The teams have to be smart in naming players. It’s a great addition to the league and ensures that the excitement remains till the end,” said the former champion.
Rockets coach Nayyar said: “In Canada, we have had some fun leagues and different formats, but nothing at the level of a ‘Trump Match’. Boe elaborated: “I have not played it either, but it’s always exciting to try new things. The last time we played here, 95 per cent of the matches ended 3-2 and it was super-exciting all the way. It will bring in great excitement.”
Gopichand believes that a game set to 15 points is the way forward for badminton. “The number 15 seems to be right; shorter and faster will test the calibre of players.” Closely involved with the PBL, the champion player-turned coach went on to state that overseas players have gone out of their way to come to India for the league. “Whatever challenges we have had, what we haveachieved with the kind of players here is fantastic.”
He added: “To have someone like Lee Chong Wei, Mathias Boe, Carsten Mogensen, Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock, it’s not easy to pull out of something like this. The level is very good. We did not have theleague for a year, but we have it now and we are hopeful of having it as a permanent feature from now on. Looking at the last edition, players like K Srikanth were just coming up. He came to prominence in theIBL.
“Now, people are looking up to players like him. They have to deliver, so it’s almost like maturing of a player. All said and done, players like him will be scrutinised much more in pressure situations against overseas or fellow Indian players. Each day, there will be either a Saina or Sindhu, or a world champion competing on court. That’s the level of the event.”
Gopichand touched upon the absence of quality badminton in the city. “In Mumbai (there was) no badminton at all, apart from the previous IBL. So to have Saina, Sindhu and others play for two days here is fantastic. Even though it’s an Olympic year, to get players of such quality is fantastic. The players have shown a great amount of commitment to actually play this event.
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