Now badminton’s got the itch to turn short and snappy so it can prove it’s snazzy — to scrunch the playing duration by a dozen minutes at least, because some eager-beaver officials believe that an hour-long match is a drag, and leaves spectators yawning. It’s like school teens rolling down their socks to glam up, the whole thing smacking of silly giggling.
But one can’t blame badminton for jumping to the most convenient conclusions as it attempts (for no apparent reason) to appease the nameless stadium spectator and engage the faceless TV viewers: that to hold on to its fans, it needs to go short, get crisper and stay briefest.
Arguably, cricket and baseball needed the trim. Hockey’s clocked at 60 minutes now and wrestling too contemplated a compress. Now, all the leagues mushrooming in India are leaping to take liberties to wrap it up quick — the sport itself — before drizzling the game-night with the song-and-dance dressing. From the convoluted 15×3 classic scoring system that boggled viewers to the brief and futile 5×7 attempt, badminton has ceded enough ground to broadcasters’ compulsions before settling nicely into the 21×3 rally point system 10 years ago. Yet another change will be a swig one too many.
Mercifully, the likes of Lin Dan and P Gopichand have summarily shot down the need to fiddle needlessly with the scoring in badminton. Sporting events that really endure — the five-set singles Grand Slams, the five-day cricket Tests and all of the serious 90-minute football — have eschewed these hemline-raising gimmicks. Strong legacies are built on unchanging consistency.
It makes you wonder — in the extreme — if those helming sports — the brains — are bored of their own sport. Why is the first instinct for all rule-makers (under pressure to make their sport interesting) to shorten the duration of their game? Last heard, watching sport was leisure. How did a 60-minute badminton match suddenly become over-bearing? Rule-makers might be inspired by the ancient tale of Ouroboros — a snake eating its own tail — for cyclical recreating. To sum up the fussing, this over-enthusiastic tweaking of scoring systems is more like shooting oneself in the foot to us.
(Shivani is a senior assistant editor based in Mumbai)