In its bid to ape cricket’s successful model right down to its scheduling, the inaugural Indian Badminton League has forced upon itself a logistical nightmare. As in the Indian Premier League, there are a maximum of two ties per day - one at 8pm, preceded on certain days by one at 4pm. And that’s where the problems start.
A Twenty20 innings rarely exceeds by more than 10 minutes or so its stipulated duration of an hour-and-a-half. There are cut-offs in place to deal with weather delays; besides, even if the early match is delayed by more than 45 minutes, the late match can start as per schedule as it is played at a different venue.
In badminton, it’s almost impossible to decide upon a margin of error.
Theoretically, there’s a difference of 610 between the maximum and minimum possible points on a two-tie day. Okay, there’s about as much chance of that happening as the batting side hitting each of the 120 legitimate balls in an innings out of the park or, even worse, a pacer with a long run-up sending down a never-ending over comprising solely wides and no-balls.
What the opening days of the IBL have proved is that it’s unrealistic to expect a five-match (not best-of-five, mind you) tie to wind up in anything less than four-and-a-half hours. What little time is saved by sudden-death finishes and 11-point deciders is taken up by a “strategic timeout” during each game.
So one sees spectators steadily trickling out of the stadium long before the ties are over; ditto TV viewers. But the worst-affected are the players, who have to hop from one city to another without adequate rest, or the kind of compensation their cricketing counterparts in the Lalit Modi-era got for being forced to attend after-parties that dragged into the wee hours of the next morning.
The first leg in Delhi provided an early glimpse of this problem. Sleep deprivation, or a little too much Vladivar? Actually, it might have been Vladislav.
Either way, man of the match Vladimir Ivanov’s name had been misspelt on the novelty cheque. Given that it had ceased to be Independence Day 90 minutes ago when proceedings were finally wrapped up, the hand that caused the error as well as the mind that failed to accurately recall it ought to be forgiven for playing tricks.
Early Friday, there was no time for Ivanov to party. A 6.45am flight to Lucknow awaited the Mumbai Masters. With Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa and K Sai Praneeth complaining about the travel schedule, one wonders what ad hoc ruling the IBL governing council will come up with next.