Badminton is an international sport that is played either by two players against each other (singles) or four players, pair opposing each other (doubles) using a racquet and a shuttlecock. It is played on a rectangular court divided into two halves by a net. The competition is based on point system and the winner is decided on who gets the maximum points. One person serves by hitting the shuttlecock using the racquet such that it goes over the net and lands in the opponent’s side of the court. The opponent too hits the shuttle cock using their racquet and this continues till some is unable to hit the shuttlecock and it lands on the ground. Points are scored by the team that is able to prevent the cock from falling on the ground.
A racquet is framed handle equipment with hoop in between such that a tightly knit network of cord is stretched into it. A shuttlecock is a feathered object stuck together using a piece of rubber at one end. Its unique aerodynamic properties cause it to fly in the air when hit against the racquet.
This is one of the most played and sought after sports in the world, particularly popular in Asia and some parts of Europe. This sport requires high level of fitness and stamina besides agility, speed and precision from the players.
Badminton was included in the most prestigious Olympic Games in 1992 and has five events related to it – The men singles and doubles, the women singles and doubles and mixed doubles (one man and one woman in each side paired against each other).
Long ago during the 5th century BC, the Chinese played a game named “ti jian zi” meaning “Kicking the shuttle”. They played with the intention of hitting the shuttle without using their hands such that it doesn’t fall on the ground.
Much later, a game named “Battledore and Shuttlecock” was played in some parts of the world. It was more popular in India by the British Military officers particularly in Poona (now called Pune) and the game also started being called “Poona”. It was later taken back to England by the retired British officials where the rules were set, clubs were created and the game was taken a lot more seriously.
The saddest part is no one ever knows why “Badminton” became to be adopted as the official name of the sport, though many stories revolve around it. In 1875, retired military officials returning to England from India formed a club in Folkestone and for a long time the sport was being played under the same rules that prevailed in India. Much later, the rules were standardized to suit the sport at an international level. The competition started in September of 1899 named “All England Open Badminton Championships” was the first Badminton championship in the world.
Though the sport was started in England, it has been traditionally dominated by Denmark. However, the most dominant players have been from the Asian countries (Indonesia, South Korea, China, and Malaysia) and have consistently producing world class players for the past few decades.
Though there have been many Badminton Rules devised by different sections during the evolution of the sport, now they have been pretty much stabilized, standardized and accepted now. Before the Badminton match starts, a decision needs to be made as to which team will hold which side of the net and which team will serve first. This is decided by the “toss” where a coin is spun in the air and the winner decides on the above two things. Alternatively, the cock is cast and side towards which it points will get the opportunity to serve first.
The teams need to mandatorily play three sets, would need to score 21 points in each set. The team that wins the majority two out of three sets will be the winners. The player who serves first is called the server and stands diagonally opposite to the receiver. The server serves the shuttle which land in the receiver’s half of the court and is returned when the receiver hits the shuttle back to the server. This rally continues till either of the players drop the shuttle or hit it out of the court boundary or when the shuttle hits the net. This player or side lose a point to the opponents whose score increases by a point. Badminton Rule states that if the serving player or team loses a rally, the service is passed on to the opposite side immediately. This continues till either team scores 21 points. However, if both teams get to 20 points each, the game is continued till either team gains a 2-point lead. For the subsequent set, the winner of the previous set gets a chance to serve first.
Singles – The server stands in their right service court when their score is even, and in her/his left service court when her/his score is odd.
Doubles – if the serving side wins a rally, the same player continues to serve, but he/she changes service courts so that she/he serves to a different opponent each time. If the opponents win the rally and their new score is even, the player in the right service court serves; if odd, the player in the left service court serves. The players’ service courts are determined by their positions at the start of the previous rally, not by where they were standing at the end of the rally. A consequence of this system is that, each time a side regains the service, the server will be the player who did not serve last time.
The rules further allows the players to change sides after each set. If the game reaches the third sent then they can switch sides when the leading team or player is at 11 points. The server and receiver must remain within their service courts, without touching the boundary lines, until the server strikes the shuttlecock. The other two players may stand wherever they wish, so long as they do not block the vision of the server or receiver.
The main equipment used in this Badminton game is the racquet and the shuttle cock. Apart from this, the grip and the strings of racquet and the feather and rubber quality of shuttlecock also play a major in international games. Type of shoes and apparel used during play are other things involved as well.
This most important equipment is generally light weight and a quality racquet weigh anywhere between 70 – 95 grams. It is a framed structure with a handle and hoop in which networks of strings are tightly knit with which the shuttlecock is hit.
Frame of the Racquet – They are made of various compositions of materials like the carbon fiber composite or solid steel. Carbon fiber is a better bet as it is stiff, gives a good kinetic energy transfer and has a very good strength to weight ratio. Earlier, racquets used to be made of wood or light metals like aluminum. However, wooden racquets are no more manufactured due to their excessive mass making them highly expensive. Nanomaterials such as fullerene and carbon nanotubes are added to the racquets now a days to give them more strength and durability.
There is a wide range of badminton racquets being manufactured to cater to different players to suit their playing style. Though the conventional oval head shaped racquets are still available, the new variety with an isometric shaped head has taken over now which is slowly gaining more popularity.
Handle of the Badminton Racquet – I case of professional games, it is up to the players to choose their choice of the grip. The material used and its thickness influences the grip and the most important thing here is the players’ comfort during play. The common materials used are PU synthetic or toweling grips. In case of players who sweat excessively, an anti-sweat spray can be applied to the grip, or they can use sweatbands or frequently change the grips.
There are two main type of grips –replacement and overgrips. Replacement grips, most preferred by the players, are thicker and used to increase the thickness of the handle Towelling grips are always replacement grips. Overgrips are thinner and are generally used as the final layer. Replacement grips are adhesive while the overgrips have just a small patch of adhesive at the start of the tape that must be applied at the start of the tension. Overgrips are mostly used by those who keep changing their grips frequently so that they can be easily removed without changing the underlying material.
Strings used in Badminton Racquet – They are thin (0.62 to 0.73 mm thickness) and are extremely strong. String tension is normally in the range of 80 to 160 N (18 to 36 lbf). Professional players use stronger range of tension, around 80 and 110 N (18 and 25 lbf) compared to recreational players who generally string at lower tensions typically between 80 and 110 N (18 and 25 lbf). Some string manufacturers measure the thickness of their strings under tension so they are actually thicker then than specified when slack. The brand “Ashaway Micropower” is actually 0.7mm but the brand “Yonex BG-66” is about 0.72mm.
A “Shuttlecock”, also called the shuttle or a birdie is made of sixteen overlapping feathers in a cone shape, all embedded together at one end into a round cork base. The cork is lined with some synthetic material or thin leather.
Some players use a synthetic type of cork while playing for recreational purposes as it is less expensive and doesn’t break easily as the feathered ones. A shuttlecock has its own distinctive characters:
Aerodynamic character of the shuttle: The feathers impart substantial drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate greatly over distance. Regardless of the initial orientation, the shuttlecock is extremely aerodynamically stable. The cork flies first and remains in the cork first orientation. The parabola of its flight is such that it falls at a steeper angle than it rises. With very high serves, the shuttlecock may even fall vertically.
Spin of the shuttle: Slicing the shuttlecock so that it spins, however, does have applications, and some are particular to badminton.
Badminton Shoes and Apparels
Players need to wear light weight shoes with rubber soles or similar high grip material.
Since this sport requires high levels of lateral support, shoes are carefully selected to suit this instead of choosing the traditional running shoes. Hence shoes requires thin soles which will reduce the injury to the ankle by providing powerful lateral movements unlike other sports that require a built-up lateral support. Besides safety issues, these type of shoes will provide proper footwork to the players which is very important to move around the court to hit the shuttle.
Apparels need to be anti sweat synthetic ones which are comfortable on the players while playing in the high stress environment.
The official internationally recognized governing body of this sport is called the Badminton World Federation (BWF)and there are five regional confederations associated with it:
To win a game of badminton often requires a wide range of strokes to be played by both sides. This ranges from the delicate net cuts to the powerful smashes. Though the rally ends with a smash, softer strokes are required to set up that smash.
The court in this case is narrower than the doubles court, though of the same length. Since one player is expected to occupy the entire court, the basic strategy here is to tire the opponent by making the player move around as much as possible – meaning the strokes are generally aimed at the corners of the court. Players exploit the length of the court by using all possible shots – like the lifts, clears, drop shots and net shots. A smash is rare in singles as there is no partner to combat the effective and skillfully placed return which generally happens at international games. Besides, a smash is very exhausting and tires the player faster. However, a skill smash is always in the player’s dictionary to end the rally in response to a weak stroke by the opposition.
Generally, players start the serves with a forehand high or a flick serve to gain and advantage, though low serves are also frequent. However, the drive strokes are rare. Singles requires real high fitness levels and one has to keep conserving energy during play by strategizing such as to reduce movements and jumps. Singles is a game of patient positional manoeuvring, unlike the aggression of doubles.
There is men’s doubles and women’s doubles where there are two players or a pair of players of the same gender in each side.
Here, is all about attack as the responsibility is equally split between both the players of each side. There is a lot of aggression involved as the pair will adopt an attacking formation where one player will hit down from the rarecourt and the partner positioned in the fore midcourt will combat the smash responses. Case where the rearcourt attacker plays a dropshot, his partner will move into the forecourt to threaten the net reply. They will use a flat stroke to gain the attack in a situation where they are unable to hit downwards. At a high level, the backhand strokes have become highly popular compared to the forehand strokes as they are more powerful and successful. The straight low serve is used most frequently, in an attempt to prevent the opponents gaining the attack immediately. Flick serves are used to prevent the opponent from anticipating the low serve and attacking it decisively.
Though this also requires a high fitness level, especially at the international stage, the main thing here is aggression and attacks. The rallies are really fast especially the men’s doubles resulting in loads of excitement and entertainment to the audiences and spectators.
Badminton Mixed Doubles
This is a mix of women and a man in each side. Here, they typically maintain an attacking strategy by having women at the front and man at the back since the male players are comparatively more physically stronger and can produce more powerful smashes compared to their female counterpart. The softer strokes that require skill more than power and can be played by the fore or midcourt are taken care of by the females. Certain teams reverse this strategy to confuse the opponents. At high levels of play though, the positioning is more flexible with women at the back as some are equally capable of producing powerful smashing so that men can take up the more subtler role.
Apart from good fitness level, this requires a lot of understand between the pair so that both players don’t attempt to respond to the same opponent stroke as it will lead to confusion and trouble.