New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Although some have questioned the timing of the tournament, chief national coach Pullela Gopichand believes the Premier Badminton League (PBL) was used to prepare for the all-important Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August. 

“It depends on how you look at it. We are still seven months away from the Olympics. There is time, and players used this tournament as a preparation (for the Olympics),” Gopichand told IANS in an interview. Held at the start of the Olympic year across five Indian cities, from January 2 to 17, the timing was questioned by some because an injury could have taken away a top shuttler’s chance of doing well or, worse, taking part in the Olympics. 

“The PBL was a great experience. Also, there were not too many windows to hold it either. Out of what was available, this was the best possible outcome and names we could get,” said Gopichand, also a Governing Council member of PBL. “Looking at the constraints, it was a fantastic thing we were able to (hold it). And the way the league went, it was very positive.” The 2001 All-England winner praised the six-team tournament, which the Delhi Acers franchise won in New Delhi on Sunday. Gopichand said it was a good learning experience for the Indian shuttlers. 

“The league was very exciting. Many of the matches were very close,” the 42-year-old said, adding players got “very good experiences” and it was “a good learning” experience. “I have spoken to many players who interacted with the top players of the world. I believe this was of great help for Indian players in general.” 

A unique feature of the league was the “Trump Match”. Both teams had to select one Trump game in each tie — a win giving them two points and a loss deducting one. In the end, it all boiled down to which team managed their Trump game better. 

“It was fantastic. Most matches almost went to the wire. At the end of it, it provided the excitement that was needed and also the strategy from the team’s perspective,” said the Hyderabad-based tactician. “It was a fantastic concept and was received very well by the teams and players, who actually went ahead and played it with no inhibitions. All of them liked it. I have not seen any negative reaction from anyone.” Saina Nehwal is the only Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton. She got the bronze in London 2012. (Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at sandip.s@ians.in)

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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