In a magnanimous gesture, Premier Brands has signed a three-year deal, worth Rs. 7.5 crore, with the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to financially aid the players on their performances.

Announcing the deal here on Friday, the BAI president V.K. Verma reiterated that the money would go directly to the players. “The BAI will not keep a single rupee,” he declared.

A committee comprising former All England champions Prakash Padukone, P. Gopi Chand, former Asian champion Dinesh Khanna and former National women's champion Ami Ghia-Shah will decide on the quantum of payments to the players based on their world rankings and performances.

The performances will be reviewed every year. The Committee was expected to announce the list of 12 senior and four junior players on April 30.

“You can say, two to three categories of players would be made for the purpose of graded payments. Those in the top-10 of the world rankings will obviously get more money than those in the 11 to 20 rankings and so on,” said Mr. Verma adding that singles players would get more than those in doubles.

This means Saina Nehwal would receive a bigger share for being a top-10 player in women's singles than G. Jwala and V. Diju, ranked seventh in world's mixed doubles rankings.

Mr. Verma also clarified that a percentage of the money would be used to enhance domestic prize-money tournaments to attract leading players. “So indirectly the money would still go to the players,” he said

Saina felicitated

Later, the BAI honoured Saina Nehwal for being named for Padma Shri by presenting a silver badminton racket weighing one kilogram.

“It feels great to receive the honour. It motivates you to work harder and achieve more,” said Saina.

On the prospects of the Indian team in Uber Cup Asian Zone preliminaries, beginning at Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, n February 22, Saina sounded realistic.

“It is tough qualify for the next stage. First of all, I will have to win my singles and give the team a good start. It depends on how we play on the given day. As I said, it will be tough.”

India is clubbed with Japan, Hongkong, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines in Group ‘Y'.

Confident of show

Chetan Anand, spearhead of the team in men's Thomas Cup, was confident of the team performing well. “Unlike in the past, we have a few good singles players and the only cause of concern in our doubles pair. We need to beat Thailand to avoid meeting Indonesia in the quarterfinals.

“I think, Thailand is beatable,” said the soft-spoken Chetan.India, along with Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia are in Group ‘C'.

Two teams from each of the four teams will qualify for second stage.

Uphill task

Women's coach Archana Deodhar described as “uphill task” for the Indians in Uber Cup. “Should Trupti Murgunde come good, I think we have a chance of beating the Philippines but rest of the teams are too strong for us,” was the candid admission from the former National doubles champion.

The Indian team was scheduled to leave for Bangkok on Friday night.

The squads:

Men: Chetan Anand, Arvind Bhatt, P. Kashyap, Anup Sridhar, V Gurusaidutt, V. Diju, Rupesh Kumar, Thomas Sanave, Akshay Dewalkar and Jishnu Sanyal.

Women: Saina Nehwal, Sayali Ghokale, Trupti Murgunde, Sikki Reddy, P.C. Tulasi, Gayatri Vartak, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Shruti Kurian and Aparna Balan.

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