Grab a paddle and head to the nearest court… to play pickleball. Combining elements of all three racket sports, this new sport finds many takers in the city
Grab a paddle and head to the nearest court… to play pickleball. This game, which has elements of three racquet sports, is finding many takers in the city
What is pickleball?
This is a question K Mohit Kumar frequently gets. A question he likes to answer.
Even as he expertly slices the ball on a windy Saturday morning at the recent South India Pickleball Premier League at Hotfoot SPR Sports in Perambur, Mohit answers questions from eager onlookers. He was introduced to the sport in 2019 by a family friend visiting from the US, where it is a fast-growing sport, and has been playing ever since.
For the uninitiated, pickleball combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton. Played both indoors and outdoors with a paddle and ball, the sport can be picked up in a few hours and is an effective workout. Although it’s a relatively-new sport in India, it’s gained a lot of traction recently, especially in India’s post-lockdown phase: in 2020, the number of players in Tamil Nadu quadrupled in less than a year.
“It’s also ideal for networking, especially if you’re new to the city. We have a community that always opens doors to new players,” says 36-year-old Mohit, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pickleball Association, which draws more than 70 players, organizes a league from Bengaluru, Kancheepuram and enthusiasts. Shivamogga.
You don’t need to have played any sport before to try your hand at pickleball, but previous tryouts with racquet sports can help. Sunnidhi Jain, a class 12 student at Chinmaya Vidyalaya can vouch for that. A professional badminton player who previously represented the state, Sunnidhi switched allegiance a year ago when her cousin introduced her to pickleball. Since then, she’s been at it — practicing daily with teammates at DAV Gopalapuram and training on weekends.
Having bagged gold and silver medals in various categories at the recent National Women’s Tournament held in Bangalore, Sunnidhi is currently one of the leading athletes from Tamil Nadu in her category. “Pickleball is not as intense or physically exhausting as badminton. My sporting background helped me pick it up quickly as the court sizes are the same in both sports,” says Sunnidhi, who hopes to participate in international tournaments in Indonesia and the US soon.
While Sunnidhi approaches the sport competitively, there are many enthusiasts who also play the sport for fun with their family members. “We are seeing a lot of fathers and daughters playing, as well as players from all ages,” said Rajat Kankar MR, general secretary of the Indian Pickball Association, which has 16 Indian states and hopes to increase it to 30. End of this year.
R Shyam Sundar of Shareplay, a mobile application and city-based startup working towards creating neighborhood sports hubs, said he first heard the term ‘pickleball’ a year ago. “Now, I hear quite often,” he says, “many players book centers through us to play pickball; usually it costs ₹350-600 per court for an hour.” Normally, tennis, basketball and badminton courts are booked for pickleball, he said.
Connecting with sport
Mumbai-based Sunil Valawalkar is happy that the game is expanding rapidly across the country. Sunil, the company secretary, is believed to have introduced the sport to India after noticing families playing it during trips to Canada in 1999 and later in 2006. “It was a revelation to play and because I have a tennis background, I got a feeling. Connect with the sport,” he recalls.
Sunil returned to India armed with a few paddles and balls, determined to introduce them to his family and friends. He soon earned the nickname Pickleball Uncle in his neighborhood due to his constant performances in the neighborhood. Sunil, who founded the All India Pickball Association (AIPA) in 2008, said, “During the recent lockdown years, we have seen tremendous interest in the sport. It takes six months to perfect basic serve tennis. With pickleball, you can learn the entire game in two hours.”
Sunil emphasized that PkBall is well-suited to Indian conditions considering the country’s population and space constraints. “It is an ideal cardio workout for people who want to stay fit. According to the response to recent tournaments, there are around 6,000-7,000 active players in India at present,” AIPA Chairman Arvind Prabhu acknowledges the support. , in promoting sports.
32-year-old Yogesh Ramchandani from Chennai is one in the construction business. He’s never held a racket before, but now, his weekly routine includes a few hours of pickleball with friends. “Even if you haven’t played a sport in a while, you can pick up a paddle and play,” he said, “pickleball, after all, is about having fun.”
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton into one. Standard court size is same as Badminton court.
The game is played with a paddle between the size of a badminton racket and a table tennis bat. The ball is about the size of a tennis ball but made of plastic and perforated to deal with windy conditions. The zone near the net on both sides is called the kitchen, where you cannot step to take the ball in a full toss.
It is an indoor and outdoor sport; For the former, most badminton courts are open to host pickleball as well. Temporary nets can be set up and the game can begin.
Pickleball dates back to 1965 and was born in Bainbridge Island, USA. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum invented it to entertain their children who were bored with the usual summer activities. Named after Pickle Boat – a rowing crew thrown together from available rowers – the sport is a mixture of rules thrown together.
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