Indian badminton lost a benefactor last week. Avinash Wardekar, who died of a stroke on September 29, was one of a rare breed of people who supported badminton at a time when money was in short supply. But for his benevolence, India might have missed out on critical infrastructure and events when the game was just catching on in the country.
Wardekar was 79. He was admitted to Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital ten days earlier after suffering a stroke.
Wardekar was a successful businessman from Pune and a lover of the game. In 1980, shortly after Prakash Padukone won the All England, Canara Union – where Prakash had grown up playing badminton – planned the construction of a new badminton hall. The state government sanctioned Rs 3.5 lakh, and Canara Union had to raise an equivalent sum. Wardekar, then with the Maharashtra Association, donated Rs 50,000. The Canara Union courts have since then become an active badminton centre – for it housed the Padukone Academy in its initial years. These days it hosts a number of junior tournaments.
In 1981 Wardekar financed the construction of WIE (Western India Erectors) stadium that staged the first India Masters in Pune. This was the first prize money tournament conducted in India, with £ 14,000 at stake. Prakash Padukone, then in the prime of his career having won the All England the previous year, won the title beating Han Jian of China in the final. Ami Ghia, from Bombay, finished runner-up in the women’s singles.
Wardekar served as President of Maharashtra Badminton Association from 1988 to 1992 and was also, until recently, the President of Poona District and Metropolitan Badminton Association (1976-2011). He was associated with many educational institutions and industries. He was Chairman of Western India Erectors (WIE) and was introduced to the Pune district association by the late Dajisaheb Natu, one of the pioneering administrators of badminton in India.
Wardekar was instrumental in the development of badminton in Maharashtra. He helped many players such as Prakash Padukone, Uday Pawar, Ramesh Nabar and Satpal Rawat by providing financial assistance to represent India at international events. The sports complex built by him at Modern High School helped the game develop in Pune.
Wardekar will be remembered as a visionary and a successful businessman. He constructed many prestigious projects in the Middle East, making WIE an internationally renowned company. He was associated with educational institutions like PE Society (Modern High School and College), Maharshi Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha Karvenagar (Cummins College of Engineering for Women, and Nanawati College of Architecture), and many more. He helped organise many mega events in badminton, including international matches and national championships in Pune.
Former international players Ramesh Nabar, Satpal Rawat, K R Shetty, Anna Natu, Girish Natu, Uday Sane, and many other friends and relatives attended the funeral. Wardekar will be greatly missed by players and followers of badminton.