Taking a cue from how the sport grew organically in back lanes and parks, where more recreational players toss around the shuttle than those sweating it out in high-ceilinged indoor courts, AirBadminton is racing towards a 2020 season. This development holds the potential for roping in a new demographic — from untouched corners of Africa and America as well as mixed 3-member teams from the traditional hubs, in a fun format never seen before. .
For Indians, these are merry tidings. Not many childhoods have missed out on the hurriedly assembled net and the endless summer afternoons and winter evenings spent playing casually outdoors, with the sole motive of keeping the shuttle in play. Badminton is perhaps the most popular recreational sport right upto the senior citizens category.
This isn’t too dissimilar to the 3X3 basketball that Americans indulge in with hoops casually jutting out of outer walls. Or how South America scouts for its footballers — Pele and Maradona were first spotted off the streets. Closer home, Indian outdoor shuttlers are perhaps closest to how Pakistan channels its tape-ball cricketers and routinely unearths 150+ pace bowlers catapulted into the national team. Next to cricket, badminton has been India’s second largest participatory sport — perhaps more even, given girls are not kept away from the ‘building compound’ games. An organised tournament structure for the outdoor sport might well mean that a Pullela Gopichand or Prakash Padukone with their highly trained eye get invited as chief guests to many such breezy AirBadminton outdoor tournaments, and can scout the thousands who for many reasons, financial mostly, never knocked on the doors of the state of the art academies.