GAME ON: So what’s the point?

  • Say what
  • Wednesday, 14 May 2014

RECENTLY, I was challenged by my colleague to play a badminton match under the old scoring format.

I took up his dare because I am fond of the old format and he gave me a 10-point advantage!

It was a one-game match, witnessed by our co-workers and friends.

I won 15-6 and he has not stopped asking for a re-match!

My five minutes of glory came from the old scoring format. Remember the 3x15 system for men and 3x11 for women?

Under this format, a match could go on and on. One needs to win a service in order to win a point.

That classic format was scrapped by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) in 2001 because they felt matches were getting too draggy - and the newer generation wanted something faster.

It was improvised and replaced with the short-lived 5x7 format in 2002.

In 2003, BWF reverted to the old format.

At the Thomas Cup Finals in 2006, BWF decided to introduce the 21x3 rally scoring system - a brainchild of the late Datuk Punch Gunalan - which is currently being used.

It does not have service overs and one has to pay for every mistake made - a system that China’s Lin Dan and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei have thrived in.

Now, there is talk that BWF are looking at changing the scoring format again. A decision on this could come from the council’s deliberation during the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals in New Delhi from May 18-25.

It seems there is consideration to use the 21-point rally scoring for the first two games, while shortening the rubber game to 11 points - a format that was used during the Indian Badminton League (IBL) last year.

Chong Wei, at least, seems quite excited about it, giving it his nod.

Will it be a good format though? Are there any other possible formats?

Ironically, just before news broke that BWF may tweak the scoring format, a friend of mine - Claus Rasmussen from Denmark – suggested that it was time for the world body to change their “boring” format.

Rasmussen has been in badminton as a coach for some years and, in fact, I visited his club Fladsaa in Naestved a few years ago and got a glimpse of Denmark’s club system.

I found his suggestion for a new scoring format quite interesting, although it may sound extreme to some.

This is what he proposed - win three consecutive points to win a game, three games to win a set, and three sets to win a match.

“Under this format, 3 is the magic number. That means a 2-0 lead will change into 0-1 if you lose the next point,” said Rasmussen.

“That way, there’ll be a lot more ‘big points’ in a match compared to the present system where everybody is just waiting for the score to reach 17-17 before the game gets interesting.

“Under this system, you have to win a point on your own serve to win a game, set and match. This way, a match cannot end on a service fault (as in the current system), which is the most depressing ending imaginable for players and fans.”

He detailed how it would work in the doubles but in short, his intention is this: “We have to make our sport interesting for a larger audience to make badminton grow and become more popular worldwide.”

“Each format will have different tactics and ways to handle specific situations. My guess is that the new format will show who is the better player under pressure - and hopefully get their individual skills and styles to stand out more and give the fans something to relate to,” he added.

Which new scoring format gets the green light remains to be seen.

It has been eight years since the last change took place. Are the players themselves ready to start again with a new format and ensure they give their fans their money’s worth?

These are among the issues the BWF council will have to consider in a bid to make the sport relevant, interesting and popular, while remaining an Olympic sport.

The writer recalls the backyard scoring of her childhood. Some rules were relaxed - points were awarded even if the serve was above the waist. The self-made court was by the roadside and the success of a player depended on how solid the wooden racquet was and which direction the wind blew. How the sport has evolved indeed!

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