Badminton Federation plans to make India the next 'badminton powerhouse' - here's how
With BAI's Himanta Biswa Sarma at the helm, a set of changes are on the horizon for Indian badminton as they plan to open regional academies and promote the grassroots.
For the longest time, Indian badminton, despite its success at the Olympic level, has remained consolidated to very specific pockets of South India - chiefly, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In fact, Hyderabad is dubbed as the Badminton Capital of India given its long lineage of producing champion shuttlers like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth - who have gone out and conquered the world, training in the City of Nizams.
Both Hyderabad and Bangalore have become the epicenters of badminton in the country especially because of two people, who have contributed immensely to the promotion of the sport in the country. While Prakash Padukone set up one of the earliest state-of-the-art badminton academies in the country - the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in 1994, his student Pullela Gopichand began the Gopichand Badminton Academy in 2008.
Ever since, badminton has seen a new dawn in the country as these two technologically-advanced academies with a good breed of coaches towed India to the very helm of the BWF world rankings - Saina Nehwal, a 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist became the World No. 1 in 2015 and Kidambi Srikanth also stayed put on the Numero Uno spot in 2018. However, despite all this, badminton remains concentrated in South India and hasn't really spread its wings all over the country. Taking this into their notice, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) has decided to restructure the badminton set-up in the country more evenly so that India can establish itself as a badminton powerhouse in the coming years.
How does BAI plan to dilute this concentration?
The Badminton Association of India (BAI), which is one of the oldest badminton organisations in the world, established in 1934, plans to re-order the existing framework in Indian badminton. With the Chief Minister of Assam and BAI president, Himanta Biswa Sarma coming onboard in 2017, changes were already being heralded.
"It is my aim to take Indian badminton to the highest level globally and to establish the country as the badminton powerhouse," Himanta Biswa Sarma mentioned in an interview with ANI.
Sarma, who was elected to the BWF Council for a four-year, is already making big plans for the future. To help distribute badminton equally in the country, the BAI has proposed to set up five regional academies and one national academy, at the earliest. The location of the regional academies are yet to be fully finalised but chances are that Nagpur (West Zone), Panchkula (North Zone), Hyderabad (South Zone), Guwahati (East Zone) and Raipur (Central Zone) are most likely to make the cut. Finally, the BAI wants a national badminton academy to be set up in the capital city of Delhi where it has its headquarters.
The fact that Sarma has big plans and is dedicated to see it through clearly shows. The regional academies will act as a talent pool in the coming days. Further, with good coaches - both domestic and foreign stepping in, India is expected to soon produce successors to PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth. By setting up regional academies, the BAI's focus is also expanding to the grassroots - which has a lot of untapped potential.
What's the new tournament structure in Indian badminton going to be like?
Badminton hasn't historically enjoyed funds like cricket does in India. However, with Sarma at the helm, there are drastic changes coming in this sector as well. The BAI has proposed to introduce a multi-level tournament structure in the domestic tournaments that will have a combined purse of Rs. 2 crore, a big amount for badminton in India.
Top shuttlers would refrain from participating in the All India Ranking domestic tournaments primarily because of the lacklustre prize money. However, in an effort to attract all shuttlers - both budding as well as the seasoned and encourage healthy competition, the BAI will now have 3 categories of tournaments to seek out shuttlers based on their performance. The Senior National Championships will now boast of a Rs. 50 lakhs purse, as well.
Level 1 of the category will be the top-tier and will have a purse of Rs. 25 lakhs. This Premier Super Series event will be conducted twice a year while entries will only have main draws. Getting an automatic ticket into this will be the top eight domestic singles players and the top four pairs for doubles, all of who are ranked well-within the BWF top 100. Further, on the basis of BAI rankings, the top 24 singles players and 12 doubles teams will also earn a spot to play in the Level 1 knock-out style tournament.
To help in the hunt for the next badminton star, the BAI has also set-up a four-member committee for talent identification. Comprising the Pullela Gopichand, the Chief National Coach of India, Ajay Kumar Singhania, the BAI general secretary, Sekhar C Biswas, the BAI vice-president and finally, Sanjay Mishra, the Chief National Coach Junior, this talent-spotting committee will play a key role. Responsible for scouting shuttlers for the Khelo India Youth Games, this committee will work at par with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and its Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) to aid in the process of selection of the players.
Good days are finally en route for badminton in India and Sarma's decisions are already hopeful for a bright future for India in the fastest racquet sport in the world. The true triumph of this system will happen when badminton spreads all over the country and we will have champion shuttlers from all across the nation and not just South India. This much-needed dilution was required and the BAI has taken an active step towards it by proposing this set of new changes.
Note: Earlier in the article it was mentioned Himanta Biswa Sarma was the recently-elected president of BAI, which has been edited.