BAI dangles ₹1-crore bait to attract Saina and Sindhu

The BAI, which now appears to be a player-friendly body, has brought in some massive changes which should bring the stars back.

The next Nationals, in Nagpur in early November, should be a hot property now.   -  PTI

For years, the Badminton Association of India has been racking its brains on how to attract its top stars such as Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu for the Nationals. The absence of big names from the country’s premier event the last few years has virtually driven away top sponsors from the sport.

The BAI, which now appears to be a player-friendly body, has brought in some massive changes which should bring the stars back. “When I met the players recently in Hyderabad, they gave me an assurance that they would play,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, the new BAI President, at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here on Monday.

“They just had two requests, not to have nationals at venues where there are no international-quality arrangements, and to have matches at a fixed time.”

And instead of using the stick, Biswa Sarma has decided to dangle juicy carrots to lure the stars.

“First, we thought we’d make it compulsory for players to play the Nationals but for the last one year, our relationship with the players is so good, so now, even to think that they will cook up some injury to skip the event is out of question,” he explained.

And in case players are wavering, the BAI has decided to raise the prize-money at the Nationals ten fold, to an amazing ₹1 crore.
 

“Earlier, our total prize-money was ₹10 lakh but now it has been enhanced to ₹1 crore. And players will get prize-money right from the pre-quarterfinal where it will be ₹50,000,” said Biswa Sarma, also the Finance Minister of Assam. “In quarterfinals, they will get ₹1 lakh, it will be ₹2 lakh for a semifinalist and in final, they will get ₹5 lakh.”

But will it not be a huge burden for organisers of Nationals?

“The burden will be shared in two ways. We are developing the Senior Nationals into a unique brand and once Saina and Sindhu and the other top players play, definitely the semifinals and final will be telecast and that is a new area where sponsorship will come,” explained Biswa Sarma who is in Kochi in connection with the Manorama BWF World senior badminton championships which began on Monday.

“With these big players coming in, I don’t think raising a crore will be an issue. And there will be more spectators too, from 500 now it will go up to 5,000. We are also thinking of on-field sponsorship apart from the TV sponsors. And if the money does not come, then the BAI will do the funding.”

The next Nationals, in Nagpur in early November, should be a hot property now.