New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS): Touted as the richest shuttle tourney in the world, the $1 million Indian Badminton League (IBL) will finally get cracking as Krrish Delhi Smashers take on Pune Pistons at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here Wednesday.
After much-anticipation and hullabaloo, things have finally fallen into place for the event that is a clone of cricket's highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL) and is based on the Sudirman Cup format with a few changes.
Following cricket, hockey and boxing, badminton too jumped into the business of city-based franchise leagues which will see top shuttlers from all major badminton nations -- barring China -- playing in the Aug 14-31 tournament.
There were doubts over the inaugural edition when the players' auction got postponed thrice. Scheduled in March, the auction was first postponed to June 30 and then to July 19 before settling for July 22. The auction was also followed by a few controversies with several shuttlers complaining about their base price being reduced.
The six city-based franchises -- Hyderabad Hotshots (owned by PVP Group), Banga Beats (BOP Group), Krrish Delhi Smashers (Krrish Group), Awadhe Warriors (Sahara), Pune Pistons (Burman family) and Mumbai Masters (cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar, Telugu film star Akkineni Nagarjuna and businessman V. Chamundeshwarnath) -- will each comprise six Indians, four foreigners and a junior Indian player.
Interestingly, the format is such that each tie will have five matches excluding women's doubles. There will be a women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and two men's singles. In total, there will be 90 matches and the top four franchises will clash in the semi-finals. The final will take place in Mumbai Aug 31.
The league is perhaps taking place at the right time after India's successful outing at the World Championships last week.
With Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap reaching the quarterfinals and P.V. Sindhu's medal-winning performance, badminton has become the talk of the town having made the front page of newspapers.
As several former shuttlers are saying, IBL will benefit the players much more than they can even imagine.
With ESPN and Star Sports as the broadcaster, not only will the youngsters get known, the spectators will also be able to put a face to the name of the players they had been reading about in the newspapers.
The league will also benefit shuttlers financially and the added incentives will be playing alongside top international player. For Indian and overseas shuttlers, the money from IBL is never-before-seen in the sport for 18 days' play.
For an unknown Sumeet Reddy, the experience of playing alongside World No.1 and two-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei in Mumbai Masters and for Thane's Shubhankar Dey, the feel of playing with former Olympic and World Champion Taufik Hidayat in the Hyderabad Hotshots will be priceless.
The IBL rules have been tweaked a bit to gain more spectator interest. In the group stage, all five matches in a contest will have to be completed even if a team wins the first three. But in the semi-finals, the team winning the first three advances to the final and will not have to play the remaining two matches.
The league will also have a different points format. Though the first two games will be a race to 21 points without the standard two-point gap, the third game will be a race to 11.
There will be two one-minute breaks at seven and 14 points, respectively, in each of the first two games while the third game will have a break at the sixth point.