KUALA LUMPUR: It wasn’t just the spicy food in India that has won over world No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei.
He has also given the thumbs-up to the inaugural US$1mil (RM3.29mil) Indian Badminton League (IBL) – proudly proclaiming that the IBL has given the sport a new flavour.
On Tuesday, Chong Wei led his Mumbai Masters team to success by playing in two events in New Delhi. He not only took part in the men’s singles, he also made a surprise international debut in the mixed doubles.
He disposed of compatriot Liew Daren 21-12, 21-16 before teaming up with three-time All-England champion Tine Baun of Denmark in the mixed doubles, defeating V. Diju-Prajakta Sawant 18-21, 21-15, 11-5.
With the two points from Chong Wei, the Mumbai Masters went on to beat Krrish Delhi Smashers 4-1 for their first win in the IBL, which started last week.
Chong Wei could only join the IBL a few days as he had to take some time off to recover from the disappointment of losing to Lin Dan of China in the final of the World Championships in Guangzhou on Aug 11.
“For a league that is making its debut, I think it’s really ‘hot’ and attractive,” said Chong Wei.
“I played in the mixed doubles for the first time with Tine and we beat a fancied pair from India. Diju is a mixed doubles specialist … so, it was a good result for the team.
“I guess it’s the surprise elements – like me playing in the mixed doubles – that make the league very interesting. This is even better than the league in China.”
Chong Wei also liked the new twists to the format, where there is no deuce when a player reaches 20 and the rubber game is decided over 11 points.
“The format is interesting and the change is refreshing. The hall was full when I played my opening match. The fans were flocking in to lend their support. It was good to see such a huge following for the game although cricket is the country’s No. 1 sport,” he said.
“The prize money is also lucrative and I believe the whole package is good for the sport.”
The IBL will end on Aug 31.