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Doing it the Indian way
Publication Date : 09-09-2013
For a nation obsessed with cricket, the recently concluded Indian Badminton League (IBL) was nothing short of a success. The reception of the league was pretty astounding and amazing to say the least.
In the past, India boasted some big names in badminton such as former All-England winners Prakash Padukone and P. Gopichand.
Currently the gorgeous Saina Nehwal is making waves in the top level of women’s badminton – winning a bronze badminton in the London Olympics and achieving a second-place world ranking.
However, India's badminton tradition pales in comparison to that of other regional players like China, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea. Badminton is still not a very popular game in the country that worships their national cricketers.
You can't fault the IBL for effort though, while Chinese players were conspicuously absent, they managed to get Lee Chong Wei, Indonesians Taufik Hidayat and Markis Kido, Danes Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen and Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh among others into the league.
The league had six franchises representing the Indian cities of Bombay, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai and Lucknow.
Each team had 12 players, with four foreigners in the mix. I don’t think there can be a better way to promote the sport in the country than bringing in superstars.
It kind of reminds me of how Japan brought in the likes of Gary Lineker, Zico, Dunga and Jorginho to promote football in their country back in 1993 when the league first became professional.
The league has grown by leaps and bounds and just take a look at where they are now in world football. I was fortunate to have gone for a J-league match between Nagoya Grampus Eight and Vegalta Sendai in 2010, the quality was simply amazing.
Nowadays, European teams look for Japanese players.
Back to the Indian sporting franchise model, which is intriguing to say the least. They first started it for cricket in 2008, which obviously does not need promoting there.
India was already a cricket powerhouse before the Indian Premier League (IPL), which saw the best cricketers in the world playing in the league. Besides the Indian superstars names such as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kevin Pietersen , Mahala Jayawardene, David Hussey, Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting, Lasith Malinga and Jacques Kallis were also roped in for the league which is based on the quick and exciting 20-20 format.
The different teams, many owned by celebrities and superstars, made bids for the players available in an auction. Those with the highest bids would get that particular player for example.
Some of the players were paid so much that commitments to their countries took a backseat to the IPL.
Although it has been plagued by many controversies, the IPL has been very successful and was worth an estimated US$3bil this year.
The model was supposed to be expanded to football as well, although it was hit with a snag. But players such as Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Robbie Fowler and Robert Pires had already signed up to get that fat paycheck.
Although one could say that these players are past their best, fans would have come out to see them play alongside local Indian footballers. Indian fans could still see top class players playing in the future, as the league has been postponed indefinitely.
By having this franchise league, there is bound for some kids to be interested in sport, especially with the presence of foreign superstars.
You never know, but some Indian kid out there might harbour dreams of being the next Chong Wei or Cannavaro.
I would love to see a similar system adopted here, especially for sports that have seen a decline in recent times. I think sepak takraw and hockey could do with a boost.
It would be fun to see our sepak takraw players mixing it up with the Thai players or even South Koreans who are giving Malaysia a run for their money.
For hockey, it would be nice to watch Malaysians play alongside in the same team with the Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Australians and India.
You never know how far we could go with a little bit of initiative.