The Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Monday announced annual Lifetime Achievement Awards to the greats of the game who have made rich contributions to the cause of the sport in the country, with Prakash Padukone named as the first recipient of this maiden initiative.
The legendary player who is the only Indian male player to reach World No.1 ranking will be awarded a cash award of INR 10 lakh and a citation.
The announcement was made by BAI President Himanta Biswa Sarma on the sidelines of the Manorama BWF World Senior Championships here.
"This is for the first time that BAI has come up with such an award as it is time we recognize the immense contribution of these stalwarts towards the growth of badminton in the country. And no other name would have been apt but Prakash Padukone, to confer the first award. A grand ceremony will be organised in Delhi soon to felicitate Padukone," Sarma said.
It was also announced that there will be a significant increase in the prize money for the Senior National Championships and close to one crore rupees will be given to the players from this year's Senior Nationals.
"We will be increasing the prize money close to 1 crore from this year and the players will be getting prize money from the pre-quarters stage," Sarma announced.
He also confirmed the participation of top players like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth in the upcoming national championships in Nagpur from November 1-7.
"We want to transform national championship into a brand. We already have a brand in PBL and we want our premier domestic tournament also to become a huge hit amongst the fans. It has been a long time that the fans have seen high-profile clashes in the national circuit and we hope to transform the National Championship from this year," the BAI president said.
Sarma said their presence will also help in attracting broadcasters, in turn driving sponsors for the tournament in the domestic sector.
To create a new pool of champions, the BAI has decided to award scholarships to junior players annually and is working with various state governments to set up five new regional academies in the east, west, north, south and north-east of India.
"Every year we want to throw in new champions on the circuit and the academy and the scholarship and dedicated training will help us in that endeavour. The new academies will be solely owned by BAI and we are already in advanced talks with different states to identify the right partners," he added.