Hyderabad: “This is how BWF and service judges have been playing with our career. Looks like they don’t really care about our years of struggle and hard work to achieve our goals,” tweeted N Sikki Reddy, the Indian doubles player.
Sikki was referring to the new rule on service which has been implemented in German Open from this year. Vexed with service controversy, which has been dogging the game, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has come up with an idea to play the game in a more fair way.
As there was confusion surrounding the service, the Indian team requested Vemuri Sudhakar, a 68-year-old veteran umpire, to guide the players regarding the new rule at the camp prior to the All England and German Open championship at the SAI-Gopichand Academy.
Explaining about the Fixed Service experiment, Sudhakar said the BWF has been with this subject for some time because service is a major aspect of concern, both from technical point of view and reports of allegations that players do adopt various techniques while executing the service. “It is fine if it is within the framework of the rule. But when illegality steps in, it may become viral,” he said.
As per the new rule, the BWF have designed an equipment which can measure fixed service of 1.5 metres. “This will be present on either side of the net pole within arm distance of service centre. The line is 1.5 metres from the surface of the court. The earlier definition of service was the imaginary line on and around the waist with the lowest bottom rib as the lowest point. That again varies from player to player because of the height. As per the earlier law it was waist height and it was variable measure. The service judge has to adjust to different heights, particularly in doubles matches in which case there could be a possibility of an error because human effort is involved. So a fixed height that makes possible for any variable measure can be made extinct.”
The seasoned official, who first officiated in 1980 Nationals before participating in three Olympics and World championship, agreed that it can be an advantage for some players. “Whenever a new system is introduced, there could be some reservations. This instrument should be fair enough and players will follow in line. The shuttle has to travel in an upward direction. This will come to stay starting with German Open until the end of December. This new equipment has means and measures that would weed out the inconsistency of service rule. Of course, the new rule will test the players.”
Sudhakar said the game has changed. “So is the approach, mindset, attitude and tactics. There has to be a change and we have to accept change. It is mainly to give fairness to the game.”
He added that service rule is a welcome change. “But for players about 6 feet, they may have to do some thinking. Now they have the fixed height and they can have a mark on their body.”
Sudhakar pointed out that the players can exploit or stretch the rules. “The technical officials have to ensure that the rules are followed. This is a good experiment. In a way, it will be less stressful to the officials as in the past they mentally glued their eyes to the service point.”
The veteran umpire said that all eyes will be at the All England Championship as the new service rule will be in implementation. “It would be a major source of attraction. The BWF will be looking at various reactions on the new service rule.”