IBL extravaganza set for take off

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The much-anticipated $1 million Indian Badminton League is finally set to roll in six cities across the country with the first set of matches here on Wednesday.

Money, exposure and excitement, the cash-rich league has it all in a bid to lift the sport to a different level in the country.
Indian badminton, in the last few years has been buoyed the successes of London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, while Parupalli Kashyap and the now separated women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa have also done their bit.
And with teenager P.V. Sindhu claiming a historic bronze medal at the recent World Championships, the IBL — conceptualised on the lines of cricket’s Indian Premier League — could not have happened at a better time.
Expected to be a potential game-changer, the 18-day event, as touted by badminton pundits, will open up gates for the youngsters. Starting from training alongside stars like world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei, former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat and reigning All England winner Tine Baun, to watching them in action; it will be a great learning chance for the juniors.
More than the singles, India’s doubles players are expected to gain with many top names roped in by the franchises including world no. 2 Malaysian duo of Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan (Delhi Smashers).
The prize money at stake is breathtaking as the winners take `35 million and the runners up `20 million. Delhi Smashers will take on Pune Pistons on the inaugural day at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

Unique format
Based on format of the prestigious Sudirman Cup, the league is slightly tweaked in a way that an additional men’s singles match has been included instead of the women’s doubles.
So, the six franchises — Mumbai Masters, Delhi Smashers, Hyderabad Hotshots, Banga Beats, Awadhe Warriors and Pune Pistons — will face-off in two men’s singles, one women’s singles, one men’s doubles and one mixed doubles match which will be played back-to-back through the next two weeks.
Unlike the usual scoring system, there will be two games of 21 points, and the decider will be a 11-point tie-break. The standard two-point difference is not required.
“It is unique and anyone can win in this format. The new scoring system will also make matches faster. Matches are going to be tricky and aggressive,” feels Delhi Smashers icon player Jwala.

Absence of Chinese
With the absence of the top Chinese players — who would have been big crowd-pullers — Malaysian Lee and German world no. 2 Juliane Schenk, besides London Olympics bronze medallist Saina will lead the star pack.
There is, however, doubts that Lee will be available for the initial matches, following his forced pull-out from the World Championships final.

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