BAI president: Nationals dates to be tailored according to prominent players’ needs

Himanta Biswa Sarma said it would be unfair to impose the dates of the Nationals and expect superstars to play in them in view of their demanding schedule.

BAI chief Himanta Biswa Sarma (first from left) seen with Ashwini Ponnappa, P. V. Sindhu, Arun Lakhani, K. Srikanth, P. Gopichand and others in Nagpur.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Onus will henceforth be on prominent players to decide the dates of the Senior Nationals to ensure they will compete in them, Himanta Biswa Sarma, president of Badminton Association of India has said.

Sarma, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing Senior Nationals here, said it would be unfair to impose the dates of the Nationals and expect superstars to play in them in view of their demanding schedule.

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“We care for the interests of the players and we are here to see what suits them best as they pursue their goals on the bigger stages. So, from next year onwards, we leave it to these marquee players to see how best they can spare three to four days in a year so that the BAI can finalise the Nationals date,” the BAI chief said. “Yes, we leave the option of those dates to the players and accordingly we will plan out the Nationals schedule,” he said.

“Given the fact that Indian players are a huge attraction world over, we respect their commitments and also the coaches opinion too as ultimately the bigger goal is to see India win as many medals as possible at the highest level in continental events like the Commonwealth, Asian Games and the Olympics,” Sarma said.

‘Little breathing space’

Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand also felt it would be unfair to expect big players to play in every tournament given the kind of demanding schedule they have. “If you look at the calendar next year, it is packed, giving little breathing space. And, since the expectations are going to be high in the wake of the stunning performances of the Indian shuttlers, it is imperative we give the players the freedom to train, stay focussed and choose the events with adequate recovery time,” Gopi said.

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“And, mind you, all this with the specific objective of winning more laurels for the country,” he added.

Gopi appreciated the way Nagpur Nationals were conducted and felt Maharashtra Badminton Association president Arun Lakhani and his team had set a benchmark in many aspects which will be difficult for the others to emulate in future.

Lakhani said the objective of ensuring the participation of prominent players in the Nationals is to see better marketing of the event next year by the host broadcaster. The host can lure broadcasters to market the event itself in a bigger way with the iconic players taking part in it.

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