A new rule which makes wearing skirts on court mandatory for female shuttlers has created a furore in India with former and current players saying such an "unfair" move could discourage girls from taking up the sport.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has introduced a new dress code, which requires all female shuttlers to wear skirts from May 1. Players may continue to wear shorts if they wish to but it has to be underneath a skirt.
India's most successful doubles player Jwala Gutta and her doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa and a few like them prefer wearing skirts on court but even they feel it should not be made compulsory.
BWF's new rule is a step to glamourise badminton like tennis and Jwala said though she is all for boosting the glamour quotient, wearing skirts should not be mandatory as it might affect a player's freedom.
"I have always been comfortable in skirts but forcing players to wear them is not right. A player can wear a skirt if she is comfortable but making it mandatory is not right," Jwala said.
"Players come from different background and different countries, some of the countries are pretty conservative and have different culture, so some players might not like the idea.
"There can be other ways to make the game attractive. In badminton, the sponsors such as Yonex and Li Ning can come out with designer on-court outfits," she added.
Ashwini, who won the Commonwealth Games gold medal partnering Jwala, said personally she doesn't have a problem but feels it would be unfair to force it on players.
"I personally feel happy about it because I am quite comfortable wearing it. But I know a lot of girls would not be comfortable with it. It is quite interesting for those who like it," Ashwini Ponnappa said.
"A lot of Indian girls like wearing shorts as they have always played with shorts but even in skirts, you can wear shorts underneath it, so it would take a little time for them to get used to it," she added.
Former shuttler Madhumita Bisht, who became the national sub-junior champion in 1977 and went on to became eight-time national singles champion and nine-time doubles winner, said it should not be compulsory and might discourage girls from joining the sport.
"It should not be made compulsory as a lot of girls are not comfortable wearing skirts and it is not only in India. Even top players from China, they wear skirts. European countries will have no objection but then think about Iran, Pakistan and such other countries," said Madhumita, who was awarded Padma Shri for her outstanding performances in Sports by the Government of India in the year 2006.
"During the Commonwealth Games, Pakistani shuttlers were wearing track suits. In 2005 Asian Satellite, two Iranian shuttlers were wearing track suit and white scarf. So such a mandatory rule, actually we discourage girls from coming to badminton. So it is a request to BWF to reconsider their decision," added the 12-time mixed doubles nation champion.
Aparna Popat, who won the women's singles in the French Open in 1998 and a silver at the Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur in the same year, also endorsed Madumita's views.
"I don't think it would be fair to force it on players, especially since many players are not comfortable. As long as the attire is decent, there should not be a problem and players should be allowed to wear what they want. Skirts are not unwelcome but then should not be mandatory," said Aparna, who a bronze at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.
World number three Saina Nehwal, who starts as the top seed at the Indian Open next week, is one of the many Indian shuttlers who prefers wearing shorts on court but the 21-year-old said she has no problems wearing skirts.
"I think I love it, I enjoyed my days when I wore shorts and I would enjoy my skirts too. No problems," Saina had said when she was asked about the new BWF rule after the first round of the All England Super Series.
The new rule was BWF's bid to boost the sport's profile among viewers and sponsors but not every one is happy with the changes.