When you think of the sport ‘Badminton’ in India, the name Saina Nehwal immediately comes to mind. In fact, much of the country’s recent success in the many championships in the sport has been at her hands, and hence it is no surprise that her name has become synonymous with Badminton. However, why is it that a sport such as this, played in the Asian Championships, the World Championships, and even the hallowed Olympics has only one top level representative from India? What is stopping India from producing other Saina Nehwals? We take a look at some of these hurdles here, and try to provide ways to breach these barriers.
One of the many hurdles faced by any sport in India is exposure. With the majority of the people having been raised on a steady diet of cricket, the media, advertisers, and broadcasters also continue to concentrate on cricket – to the detriment of all sports – so that they can reach the largest audience. It is difficult to wean them away and invest in another sport which would need a lot more effort to grow. Most fear that the efforts would not be worth the compensation received at the end of the day.
One bright spot for Badminton here is that the nation has its icon for the sport in the form of Saina Nehwal, and her success is slowly but surely garnering media attention and getting her sponsorship deals, showing the lucrative side of this sport as well. Saina’s success story could become the inspiration for others to follow in her footsteps and help the sport gather more traction in India.
Though India has done well in Badminton in the past couple of years, the success rests solely at the players feet, ably aided by their coaches. They took a conscious choice to follow their passion, and held on until the very end. They invested huge amounts of time and money into getting the proper training to reach the top level. Nowhere was it supported by the government, not until after the victories. The Sports Authority of India needs to step up and set up training centres and appropriate facilities where players can train and learn from the best, instead of having to gruel on their own. Only with a proper training regime can there be a sustained level of success, otherwise sports stars such as Saina and her ilk will only be flashes in the pan, and so will India’s success in the sport be a momentary flash in the pan.
Perhaps the most important thing that needs to change is the people’s attitude towards sports like Badminton in general. Most people enjoy it, cheer loud when their player wins, but rarely do they think of it as a serious career option for their children. This is mostly because of the chances of success being slim – compared to completing higher education and getting a job – especially with all the competition. This is where government grants and scholarships could help, reducing the burden of expenses on players. It would also make them continue their studies while also pursuing their sport passionately.
If these obstacles are overcome, badminton has a good chance of having a glorious future in India.