In Visitors, I invite one person each week to share perspectives on a sport, a sporting event, sporting aspects or any thing in between. This week, Saakshi O. Juneja of To Each It’s Own joins us to give her thoughts on badminton and the state of badminton in India. If you would like to contribute for a future edition of Visitors, do not hesitate to e-mail me.
By Saakshi O. Juneja
I have been labeled as a â€œTom-boyishâ€ girl, right from my childhood days. Barely had any interest in sitting at home playing with Barbie look-alikes or fake kitchen sets. I always out there with the boys and (some) girls, getting myself dirty while playing games such as, â€˜Hide-n-Seekâ€™, â€˜Chor-Policeâ€™ and the likes.
I guess the likening for aggressive out-door activities was built in me right from the start and was further encouraged by my family. Both of my older siblings actively participated in sporting activities in school and inter-school levels. My dad in the early 1980s started a sportswear manufacturing unit in Mumbai and went on to establish a well-renowned brand in India, today.
During my younger days, I skipped from one sport to another mainly cause of my constant need of change or maybe I was searching of my â€˜Theâ€™ sport. I started with Athletics, moved on to swimming and then finally landed on Badminton. And it has remained my favorite sport till this very date.
During the late 80s and early 90s, one can Badminton as a sport was at its peak. At that time I used to play at with my friends and was also enrolled in coaching practice at Juhu Gymkhana. With only 3 badminton courts and around 50 odd kids cribbing to get themselves on them, it used to really difficult for the officials in-charge, to handle the situation at times.
Even the schools at that time, encouraged the game and had it included in their sports curriculum. I remember going to different cities such as Pune, Nagpur, New Delhi, etc with my school as a member of the Badminton team. It was totally amazing to watch the kids in higher-age categories taking their game seriously and not giving up till the very last point. Girls much shorter and leaner than me were so agile and quick on the court that at times they resembled Wonder Women.
Badmintonâ€™s history is as interesting as the game itself. According to some it was invented by the Duke of Beaufort in 1870 when he and his guests played the game at his home, Badminton Hall in Avon. But few others claim that it based on a game once played in India in the 17th century. And some have mixed the above two and have come-up with another theory that Badminton Hall gave its name to the sport and India was where the rules of the game were established.
Surprisingly it was not just cricket that was popular during the British Raj. Badminton was extremely popular among the British Army officers stationed in India. The first Badminton Association was founded in England in 1893 and the International Badminton Federation and the All India Badminton Association in 1934.
The two most well-known Indian Badminton players who dominated the world-rankings are Prakash Padukone (now retired) and Pullela Gopi Chand.
However, the once very popular sport in India is now walking the road of extinction. The same very courts that were once upon a time, crowded with eager children, today remains empty most part of the day. Reasons could be plenty – more number of younger sports enthusiasts opting for popular games such as Cricket, Long Tennis, Chess, etc. Popularity of video games and cartoon channels among the kids, schools giving less importance to sporting activities, lack of proper and adequate facilities provided by the government and local clubs and lack of district and state-level tournaments.
Not only with respect to Professional sport, Badminton has been on a decline but also as fitness game. Previously many adults would play the game in order to maintain their weight and other fitness levels but these days thanks to the growing popularity of the gym culture; these people prefer enrolling themselves there.
Itâ€™s really sad to see that a sport which in all probability was invented by our fore-fathers and has existed for centuries; today has a very grim future ahead. Another reason for this state could be blamed on the concerned sports authorities, for not being to capitalize on its popularity during its hay-days.
The All India Badminton Association needs to get its act together and come-up with an appropriate plan of action. Or else our future generation will only read about this amazing sport in their history books.
* Some worth-knowing facts on Badminton
1. Badminton is the fastest racket sport in the world.
2. The game also dates back to ancient Greece and China as well, and was called battledore and shuttlecock.
3. Badminton was originally played as a cooperative sport, where the goal was mainly to keep a rally going as long as possible.
4. The shuttle-cock can travel off the racket at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.
5. Men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles have been Olympic sports since 1992.
6. More than 140 countries are now affiliated with the International Badminton Association.
7. The use of goose feathers in shuttlecocks has been stopped by the Indian government and they have been replaced with light-weight plastic shuttles. Though in top-level matches, the originals are used.
8. The game rules have changed this year – from a 15 point game, itâ€™s now a 21 point game. Points can be scored irrespective of who is serving.