As India runs out of shuttlecocks, Shuttlers are lobbed an alternative
The cat is finally out of the bag!
Indian shuttlers had their national camp cancelled prior to the resumption of important international events like the Thomas and Uber cups because neither the Badminton Association of India nor the Sports Authority of India had enough stock of shuttlecocks.
Interestingly, nearly 90 percent of the shuttle cocks approved by Badminton World Federation for international tournaments are manufactured in China. With government of India's blanket ban on import of feathered goods from China, it is hardly any surprise that stocks were all but gone.
The ban on scheduled international flights since late March had already made the supply situation rather precarious. And on top that came the June clashes along the line of actual control between the Indian armed forces and the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Since the matters along the LAC are anything but resolved, tough decisions by the government are likely to impact sports such as badminton in a massive way.
Both BAI and SAI have admitted that they received their last supplies of approved shuttle cocks in early June. Thereafter they have been looking askance as border tensions made it impossible for suppliers to meet the order commitments.
Also following withdrawal by several Asian countries, some players, including London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, have questioned the BAI decision to participate in the upcoming events in Denmark, especially since there seems to be hardly any let up in the Covid19 pandemic.
Ideally, staying away may not be the answer, but BWF's approval of the use of synthetic feathers for shuttle cocks at all levels could not have come at a better time. The January decision comes into force only in 2021 but it certainly will prove a breather for the beleaguered Indian shuttlers.
Best quality badminton shuttle cocks are manufactured from the feathers of the left wing of a goose, treated chemically and then trimmed to identical shape and size before being planted on the cork base. But with supplies of natural feathers as well as high quality cork diminishing every day, synthetic feathers may indeed be the answer.
Obviously, quality control will remain with BWF and only approved manufacturers will be allowed to supply the synthetic feathers.
The move makes a lot of sense, especially in these troubled times, when supply has been put on hold. Plus, BWF studies show that the number of shuttle cocks used in an international tournament would be reduced by more than 25 percent with synthetic feathers compared to the natural ones in use currently.
Not only does the move make the sport of badminton more viable with one of the major cost components being heavily slashed, BWF has eased the general technical approval criteria for other equipment as well.
BWF does not see a sudden switch to synthetic feathers as manufacturers need to augment production capacity to meet the expected demand. After all players need to practice with these shuttles first before jumping into tournament play!
All said and done, badminton is certainly looking at long-term sustainability rather than short-term hurdles!
Ravi Kant Singh is a sports writer, analyst and broadcaster since 1984, having covered a wide spectrum of sports—Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, to name a few.
While working for ESPN Star Sports, he was a regular commentator for NBA, tennis, golf and many a major soccer leagues of Europe and South America. He has also pushed the cart of new home-grown leagues in India: Pro Kabaddi and Hockey India league, being involved with both since launch.
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