It's first day first show for the Indian Badminton League (IBL) today. The Pune Pistons and Delhi Smashers, led by two of India's doubles specialists, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta, will be in action. Jwala and Ashwini though will feature only in the Mixed Doubles in the tie, as Women's Doubles isn't a part of the competition.
There will be much to look forward to in the singles though. Like Germany's Juliane Schenk, who was bought by the Pune Pistons for 90,000 USD. Saina Nehwal is pretty much the only Indian against who Schenk has played a few times. Thanks to the Indian Badminton League, the World No. 2 from Germany is going to do that a lot more, over the next couple of weeks. "As you can see there are many countries coming up, like the Thai players, the Japanese and of course Sindhu from India. They are all youngsters, but all doing so well already. So I think there's a huge chance for more experienced players like me to give back what I can", Schenk told NDTV.
Learning is what most youngsters aim to do in leagues like this. India's Ashwini Ponnappa for instance, will be playing Mixed Doubles with Denmark's Joaquim Fisher Nielsen, a bronze medallist from the London Olympics. "It's awesome, I'm going to be playing with Fischer and he's really good. He's a Mixed Doubles specialist and I get to learn a lot from him", said Ashwini.
Learning apart, there's no doubt that the money on offer is a huge motivator. It maybe early to call the million dollar league a gamechanger but few would've imagined something like this to be a reality, even a couple of years back. "10 years back when Gopi Sir won All England, nobody knew about badminton and I was surprised to know that after All England he got nothing", said Saina Nehwal, icon player for the Hyderabad Hotshots.
Sports like boxing and wrestling gave the league format a shot, but they weren't so successful. That hopefully will not happen with the Indian Badminton League, and the biggest reason for that is the success of Indian players in the past few years. Case in point, three Indians - PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap - making it to the quarter finals of the world championships (2013) for the very first time.