Five upgraded badminton centres by end of this year, says new BAI chief

New Delhi: Newly-appointed Badminton Association of India president Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma with Badminton Association of Afghanistan president Mastoora Arezoo, National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, badminton players PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal during a press conference in New Delhi on May 5, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, May 5: Newly-elected Badminton Association of India (BAI) President Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday announced the upgradation of five Centres of Excellence by the end of this year.

Sarma, who took over as the BAI chief after the sudden demise of Akhilesh Dasgupta, also stressed on the importance of creating a “favourable eco system” to take the game to the next level in the country.

“Our approach has to change according to the changing colours of the game. Our administration has to be in tune with the progress of the game,” Sarma said.

“Our earlier system will not work. Badminton is the most popular game, and we can’t afford to have a laid-back attitude. We have to have forward thinking and we are determined to change our system,” he added.

Commenting on the upgradation of badminton centres across the country, Sarma stressed on the importance of taking the game to places rather than having a lone national centre in Hyderabad.

“We have spoken on the upgradation of the centres, one each from north, west, east and the north east, which will probably be completed by the end of this year,” he said.

“We want to bring the top players to the centres for competitive matches and not for an odd exhibition match, where our budding talents can learn from them.”

Speaking to IANS on the possibility of expanding the Premier Badminton League (PBL) by increasing the number of teams, Sarma said, “Some court cases are pending with the erstwhile IBL, but once those are settled, we can expand the PBL to the north east. A team from north east isn’t a problem. We can develop players back home.”

Sarma also said that the BAI will from now on have a liberal approach towards the players.

“BAI will have a very liberal approach towards players from now on. Even the top players feel we should not stop anyone from competing. If we stop them, then these court cases emerge,” he said.

Asked whether the doubles players will have a better say after him assuming charge, Sarma commented in the affirmative.

“Yes doubles players have a complaint. Suppose they say that their pairs are changed overnight without our approval. They allege that even if both the players are ready to play together, suddenly the pair is changed. You want to change the team, please do that but only after proper counselling and giving a proper reason for the change,” he said.

“Doubles does not get due importance. We have to take care of it. A chain of academies, with the same standard should be located across the country. It is difficult for a north player to adjust to the conditions in Hyderabad, and it is the same for a south player in the north.”

The Assamese administrator also acknowledged the importance of having a clear calendar and announcing the teams early for tournaments so that players trying to compete on their own would not have to incur escalated airline fares for booking their tickets late.

Sarma also emphasised on the importance of monitoring all tournaments to identify talent at the grassroots level.

He stressed on the need for good health insurance for players so that they go through injury and rehabilitation without financial worries.

The president also felt that the top players, despite their busy schedules, need to play domestic tournaments, whenever possible, to inspire the young players in the country.