India’s top shuttlers, including Saina Nehwal, have endorsed sport’s new format – AirBadminton, saying it has the potential to provide an alternate career to retired professionals.
Outdoor badminton is one of India’s favourite recreational sports and there are places in the country where it is a money-making option too.
Airbadminton was globally launched at Guangzhou last week by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) with new dimensions of the court and an innovative shuttlecock called Airshuttle.
Airshuttle, the most important component of the format, has been designed to have similar trajectory, acoustics and feel to that of a traditional indoor shuttle.
It would have minimal impact from side and axial wind and limited influence from humidity variations.
Olympic bronze medallist and former world number one Saina said Airbadminton will further promote the sport, taking it to different corners of the world.
“In India we mostly get introduced to this sport as an outdoor game only. We played it with our parents and friends outside the house. This is a great initiative by BWF to bring it to the fore and promote it,” Saina told PTI.
“I’m sure it will encourage amateur sportspersons to participate more and game’s popularity will swell world over.”
HS Prannoy, a 2017 US Open champion, believes Airbadminton can provide an alternative career to the retired international and domestic players.
“Indoor badminton is much more physically demanding, so players after retiring can keep playing Airbadminton and keep having an alternative career.
“There is a lot of money in outdoor badminton. Especially in Kerela, I have seen players going to different places and playing every night and earning good money, so it is a great initiative,” he said.
Pranoy has memories of watching his father play outdoor badminton during his childhood.
“My dad used to play a lot of outdoor badminton. About 300-400 people would come to watch and it was fun as a kid to see such interest in the sport. The popularity of indoor badminton is less compared to outdoor because in villages, they only know about outdoor badminton,” he said.
Parupalli Kashyap, the 2014 CWG champion, remembers how he struggled to control the shuttle when he played a promotional game with compatriot B Sai Praneeth against the backdrop of a snow-clad Mt. Titlis during the Swiss Open in March.
“It was windy and it was extremely difficult to play but I think in conditions which are not too windy, it will be fun. It is a good experiment, said Kashyap, who played outdoor badminton at inter-school level.
The BWF is working with sports manufacturers to produce and rollout the AirShuttle, which can be used for competition in winds up to 12 kilometers per hour.
Airbadminton can be played in different environments — on grass in parks, on sands in beaches and the streets and bylanes, so infrastructure won’t be a hindrance for people interested in the sport.
“In small towns where there is no infrastructure, outdoor badminton will be more popular. But some sort of support from association will be needed to make it popular, said Sai Praneeth, a 2017 Singapore Open Champion.
“It will take some time for people to take it up but it surely has the potential, you never know it can be a big thing in future.”
An important element of Airbadminton is the dead zone — a two-metre area in the front of the court — where if the shuttle lands, it will be deemed a fault.
Kashyap feels the format may also help in unearthing the next big talent.
“The game is the same, so if more people play the sport, you might spot a good talent, who goes on to play the traditional indoor game and does well for India,” said Kashyap.
BWF has also launched a new format, called Triples, where it’s match between a team of three players each with presence of, at least one female. The players are not allowed to hit successive returns.