Tracing the Journey of Badminton

Badminton as a sport has gained a lot of popularity over the last few decades. Increased sponsorship and viewership has boosted the morale of those wishing to pursue it as a career as well as passion. In a country like India where cricket is more popular than the government and the cinema, it is wrongly known as the national game as it has a direct connection with Indians. Yet, badminton as a sport is being widely appreciated and embraced with coaching academies spread over states and parents encouraging their children to train hard to become a Saina Nehwal or a Prakash Padukone. There has been a major shift in the attitudes of the masses, nationally as well as globally, in the way the game is being perceived. With a large number of world championships declared for the sport, the participation and reception is witnessing a successive rise each year.

But how did the sport come into existence? Using a racquet to hit the shuttlecock could be compared to that of hitting the ball with the bat, but the resolve to not let the shuttle fall on either side without scoring a point is a unique proposition. In order to understand more about the sport, it is essential to delve into its evolution. Games similar to the sport have been played across Eurasia for centuries together, however, the modern version of badminton developed in mid-19th century. The origins of the game of badminton trace back to 2,000 years ago to the game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ which was played in ancient Greece, China, and India. The bat was referred to as “Battledore”. The game was fairly simple- both players were required to keep the shuttlecock in the air for as long as possible, preventing it from falling on the ground.

It was then brought back to England where it was introduced to the upper classes. The game was then officially introduced to the guests of the Duke of Beaufort at his house, which was called ‘Badminton’. The English grew really fond of the game, and subsequently named it Badminton. Official rules were drafted after the game was introduced to the people in England. The first open badminton tournament was conducted in 1898 at Guildford, England and the first All England Badminton Championships was held the following year.

England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand were the founding members of the International Badminton Federation in 1934, which is now known as the Badminton World Federation(BWF). In 1936, India joined the Federation as an affiliate. The first official Badminton World Championship was held in 1977 and badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992. Later, the BWF introduced the Badminton Super Series events in 2007 to further promote the sport.

The game originally developed among expatriate British officers in colonial India. By 1870s, the sport had become fairly popular. Ball badminton, a variant of the game, was played with a wool ball instead of a shuttlecock in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu as early as the 1850s. It was initially played interchangeably with badminton by the British, as the woollen ball was preferred in windy or wet weather. The game was also known as Poona, named after the town Pune in Maharashtra, where it was particularly popular. In 1873, in Pune, the first rules for the game were drawn up. By 1875, officers returning home had started a badminton club in Folkestone.

The sport was essentially played with sides ranging from 1 to 4 players, but it was soon realized that games between two or four competitors were more compatible. The shuttlecocks were generally rubber-coated. For outdoor playing, the lead-coated ones would be used. Although the depth of the net was inconsequential, a preferred depth of the ground was established. The sport was played under the Pune rules until 1887. In 1890, the rules were revised and by 1893, the Badminton Association of England (BAE) published these rules and officially launched the sport on 13th September. In 1899, the BAE commenced the first badminton competition, the All England Open Badminton Championships for men’s doubles, ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles. Singles competitions were added in 1900.

Even though the sport developed among the English, today, players from Asian nations lead in various championships. China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea are the nations which have produced top players, with China being the leading country.

Picture Credits: Wikipedia

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