The country’s first-ever IPL-style badminton league will soon enter its third edition. The Maharashtra Badminton League, which was initiated by Haveli Taluka Badminton Association, will innovate yet again to make the competition more intense.
The Maharashtra Badminton League – organised by Haveli Taluka Badminton Association — was the first in the country to go where Indian badminton hadn’t dared to venture before. It set the template for the other leagues that were to follow – by proving it was possible to attract sponsorship money into badminton. The success of the inaugural edition of the MBL in 2011 was followed by two other state leagues, in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and the announcement of the Indian Badminton League by the Badminton Association of India.
The league is likely to be held from May 25th to June 2nd. Organising Secretary Uday Sane told Sportskeeda that everything was ready for takeoff; the league would have six teams this time instead of seven. The one big change this year would be that every team would be allowed one junior men’s singles player from any other state, in order to make the second men’s singles tie more competitive. The format consists of two men’s singles rubbers, and one men’s doubles, women’s singles and mixed doubles each. There is no women’s doubles.
Originally, the league had stipulated that only Maharashtra-origin players could be fielded. Since the state has excellent women’s players, but few top-quality men’s singles players, the second men’s singles tie was found wanting in quality. “In Maharashtra, the level of the second men’s singles player was lacking,” said Sane. “The second men’s singles match was usually one-sided. For example, if Anand Pawar is playing someone far below him in quality, the match will be one-sided and won’t look good. So we are allowing juniors from other states, to make the matches more competitive.”
The organisers themselves will allot junior players to each team; the players will be assigned through a ‘lucky draw’. Each junior player will be paid Rs 25,000 by the organisers, besides lodging and a free kit.
“The remaining players will be paid from the team owners’ kitty,” said Sane. “Each team will have a kitty of Rs 3 lakh; they cannot spend more than that for buying players.”
The player auction will be on April 20th. Owners have been asked to retain three players, and the others have to be released into the common pool. The prize money will be Rs 2 lakh for the winners and Rs 1.5 lakh for the runners-up. The two losing semi-finalists will get Rs 75,000 each. “Besides this, we want to give an incentive to players to win every match,” said Sane, “so the winner of each match will be given Rs 1500 (singles) and Rs 2000 (doubles).” The six teams will play each other, and the top four teams will enter the semi-finals. “Teams will gain one point for every game won,” said Sane, “so the players will be motivated to win at least one game even if they are not confident of winning the match.”
The MBL has apparently pleased the team owners and sponsors. The title sponsors, Cello, have apparently been keen to retain the sponsorship rights for the next five years. They have paid Rs 13 lakh this time, up from Rs 10 lakh last year. The matches will be held at PDMBA (Pune District and Metropolitan Badminton Association) courts; additional galleries will be set up so that around 1,500 spectators can watch the event. “From next year onwards, we might take the league to a couple of other places, like Nagpur and Mumbai,” said Sane. “But we’re not ready for the logistics this time. If we have to get spectators, the venues have to be attractive, and for that we need stadiums at moderate rates. Since the matches will be at PDMBA this year, we won’t be spending too much on the venue.”
Players are divided into three categories for the auction: Rs 35,000 for group A (internationals); Rs 25,000 for group B (state and national players) and Rs 15,000 for group C players.
The MBL is likely to star players such as Trupti Murgunde, Neha Pandit, Sayali Gokhale, Dhanya Nair and others. Indian internationals such as Ajay Jayaram and Akshay Dewalkar are also expected to take part, but Sane admitted that they would be busy with the Sudirman Cup. “We might have to start the league by May 27th instead of 25th,” Sane said, “A decision will be taken on April 10th.”