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Thomas Cup and Uber Cup: Fans rue absence of live broadcast of India matches

Fans are super active, browsing for options to watch the Indian men's team's 5-0 win over England. But, the lack of broadcasting options let fans down.

Thomas Cup and Uber Cup: Fans rue absence of live broadcast of India matches

REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 1 May 2024 12:07 PM GMT

Kidambi Srikanth scheming young Nadeem Dalvi with his crafty flick shot, that would fly over the England shuttler, in Chengdu, China, to seal defending champions India's victory in their second group stage tie in the Thomas Cup on Monday is a glorious moment that Indian fans missed.

Playing in the second singles, Srikanth sealed India's victory against England to confirm their place in the quarterfinals. HS Prannoy and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty provided India with a 2-0 lead, and Srikanth stepped up to make it 3-0. Later MR Arjun-Dhruv Kapila and Kiran George won in straight games to complete the 5-0 thrashing.

In badminton, shuttlers weave magic with their racquet swerving in every move creating angles, with multiple cameras from every side capturing their dynamics.

Yet, for this attractive sport where India are the defending champions in the Thomas Cup and Badminton Asia Team Championships and have a world no. 1 pair in Satwik-Chirag, with so many talented players making the game's graph soar, there is no telecast and streaming.

In 2022 when the Indian men's team blanked the mightiest side of the Thomas Cup, the world men's team championships, Indonesia in the final 3-0, the country woke up from a daze to celebrate the historic win steered by Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, Srikanth and Satwik-Chirag in Thailand.

Hope swirled high for a change since, with fans, growing in number with every title the Indian shuttlers won, hoping for extensive streaming and telecasting of India's badminton matches.

But two years down the line the situation remained the same; barely anything has changed.

It is a well-documented fact that badminton is now one of the most played sports in India, and at the international level, Indian shuttlers are a force to reckon with - the Thomas Cup title and latest feat of the women's team in Asia Championships are testaments to that claim.

A country, brazenly starved of sporting success, are blessed with multiple Olympic medals won by the country's badminton stars Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.

The transition in Indian badminton happened quite rapidly too, with the men's doubles duo of Satwik and Chirag taking over the baton to spearhead the team at the Thomas Cup. They are also the country's medal hopefuls at the Paris Olympics.

While the men's team have secured their place in the quarterfinals and are now set for the highly anticipated battle with last edition's runners-up and 14-time champions Indonesia - a tie that every fan would love to watch, India's young women's team, playing without experienced Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa, did tremendously well to confirm their berth in the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup.

But while Jio Cinema, which has the streaming right in India for the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup, and for most of the badminton tournaments, streamed the Indian men's team's first group stage tie against Thailand, it did not stream any of the women's team matches, leaving the fans in pain of searching for options to track the performance of the teams.

Speed thrills. And no sport, where humans have to generate power from their masses, can match badminton. In the absence of streaming and telecast, we tend to miss many precious moments of badminton that would have been etched into our hearts just as cricketing moments of Sanchin's scorching cover drive or MS Dhoni's unorthodox style of hitting sixes made permanent places in our minds.

But in the absence of any formalised broadcasting options for badminton, we may never know the actual impact of Satwik's booming 450km smash among the fans, or 17-year-old Anmol Kharb's wristy game, producing uncanny consistency on the international stage, and Isharani Baruah's springy game. We miss the beauty of badminton, precisely!

Fans disappointed

Fans are super active, even in the early morning browsing through websites or using VPN to watch the ties and track the men's team's performance against a rather weak England. Still, that number is unlikely to be more than hundreds. Hence, the broadcasters let millions of fans down.

Fans tend to feel disappointed.

Swathi, an U-16 state player, (name changed) is bitterly unhappy at not being able to watch Anmol, the standout performer of India's continental championships-winning team in February, live.

“After her recent performance at the Asian championships, I wanted to see how she leads the team at the Uber Cup but I could not watch her play," said Swathi.

Smrithi, a high-school player, (name changed) looks up to the Indian national team for inspiration and never misses a live broadcast.

“This time, I spent my pocket money to subscribe to Jio (Cinema) and they are not showing our teams' matches live. If they do not show the quarterfinals live and if they get knocked out, I may not get to see them play the Uber Cup at all this time," said Smrithi.

Similarly, Amit, a university student and a regular at weekend amateur competitions in Bengaluru, (name changed) expressed his displeasure over being unable to watch the Satwik-Reddy duo.

“I play doubles and I follow the exploits of our leading double duo (Satwik-Chirag) very closely, but I now have to rely on live text commentary from media websites but it is just not as good as watching a live broadcast," remarked Amit.

When asked about zero streaming of India's tie against England, Jio Cinema was quick to respond to this correspondent's post on X. "We appreciate your interest in watching all BWF 2024 live matches on our platform. While we'd love to bring them to you, we can only stream matches that have been produced. Hope this helps," JioCinema wrote, explaining its inability.

Badminton World Federation (BWF), which geoblocked their YouTube streaming of India's Thomas Cup ties, was noncommital about the zero showing in India.

For Jio Cinema, which streamed Indonesia's 4-1 win over Thailand from Court 2 when India were playing at Court 3, the obstacle was the BWF's streaming policy. The Jio Cinema is dependent on the BWF feed, which streams the matches only from Court 1 and Court 2, forcing it to align with the badminton governing body's policy.

While badminton is a fast-growing sport and immensely popular, especially in Asia, one cannot turn blind to fans' plight. They are dedicated to the sport, and for the sport to join the mainstream elite list, badminton administrators need to find a way out to make the sport more accessible to the fans. Despite a huge fan following, no sport can triumph commercially without proper broadcasting options.

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