The much touted, first of a kind badminton league – the IBL – was wrapped up a few days back. While it might or might not have been as big a monetary success as the IPL, it definitely made the nation (if not the world) stand up and watch the sport for once. This was probably the first time that the sport was being actively followed and watched by enthusiasts, due to the limited coverage it gets on live television otherwise.
The format borrowed heavily from the IPL and had earmarked some of the country’s best talent and the World no.1 as icon players who would double up as the team captains. Now that the league has been concluded, its time to take a look back and figure out if the icon players did make a difference.
Hyderabad Hotshots: Saina Nehwal
Record : Played : 7, Won : 7 , Lost : 0
The icon player that made all the difference between the eventual winners and the rest. Throughout the tournament, Saina was at her best as she once again exhibited all her skills to take her team through to the title. She was also a vociferous supporter by the courtside when she wasn’t playing, as she cheered her team-mates on as they fought their way to the title.
Coming off a bronze medal in the World Championship, the event was seen as a test of whether P.V. Sindhu could knock Saina off her undisputed position as the Queen of Indian badminton. Saina showed all her experience to come out as the winner on both occasions and the singles tie in the final turned out to be a mere formality. Saina played out two excellent matches against the higher ranked Juliane Schenk and arguably the best match of the tournament against Tai Tzu-Ying in the last league match. Though it wasn’t eventually required, it remains a commendable point that she put her hand up to play the crunch mixed doubles tie in both the semis and the final.
For most Indians, this was the first time they were getting to see what Saina really stood for and she put up a true champion’s performance for all of them to see in this league. Every match exhibited her ability to control the game, never say die attitude and her hunger for victory. A truly outstanding performance and easily the Player and Icon of the Tournament for me.