The Sports Authority of India (SAI) needs to go back to the drawing board and plan towards creating a bio-bubble to safely conduct the national badminton camp amid the COVID-19 pandemic, former shuttlers have suggested. The camp in Hyderabad's Pullela Gopichand Academy was last week shut down for a few days after women's doubles specialist N Sikki Reddy and physiotherapist Kiran C tested positive for COVID-19. It turned out to be an error as a second test of the two returned negative, allowing resumption of training from Monday. However, the incident and the growing COVID-19 cases in the country have raised the question whether more needs to be done to safely continue the camp amid the global health crisis.
Rio Olympics silver medallist P V Sindhu's father P V Ramana is wary of the threat posed by the contagious disease and suggested more stringent protocols to ensure the safety of players. "We have to be more vigilant till a vaccine is found. With cases still growing we can't be at peace," Ramana, who had won an Asian Games bronze medal in volleyball in 1986, told PTI. "I think, alongwith the SOPs laid down by SAI, we can think of allowing a 30 minutes break between the timings of training of the players and designate a particular court for each since there are 8 courts. Also since we have such high quality foreign coaches, may be one coach can be designated to a particular player, that way we can minimise the interaction further," he added.
SAI had allowed the camp for eight Olympic hopefuls following the approval from the Telangana government on August 1 but only four are currently training at the Pullela Gopichand academy. India has South Korea's Park Tae Sang and Indonesia's Agus Dwi Santoso as singles coaches, besides three Indonesian doubles coaches Namrih Suroto, Dwi Kristiawan and Miftah. Around the globe, authorities have created bio-bubbles - an arrangement where players, coaches, staffs stay in a particular place with restrictions on entry and exit - for safe resumption of sports like cricket, golf and football.
"I think having a bio-bubble for the national camp is a good idea," said former national champion Arvind Bhat. "For people who are getting ready for international events, that is the cream of Indian badminton, it makes sense to have them inside in an enclosed area. There are many asymptomatic patients and it is important to have all players at a particular place to minimise the spread of the virus or else how do you know if players are travelling in and out," added the 2014 German Open winner.
Dinesh Khanna, who claimed a gold at 1965 Asian Championship and a bronze at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, also endorsed the idea. "It is preferable to have players isolated during a camp because if you are interacting outside the camp then chances of contracting the virus are there," he said. "It is such a contagious disease, so there will always be fear." Among other sports, six Indian men's hockey team players, including skipper Manpreet Singh, had recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently undergoing treatment at a hospital in Bengaluru. In cycling, Triyasha Paul tested positive for the contagious virus on Sunday after her arrival for the national camp here.
In light of the recent cases, nine-time former national champion Manjusha Kanwar feels SAI will have to re-evaluate the situation. "There is no one answer to deal with this virus and I believe we will have to conduct camps with proper protocols and extreme caution," said Kanwar, who won silver at the 2004 South Asian Games in mixed doubles with Markose Bristow. "But it has to be an ongoing process. So probably, SAI may have to rethink, go back to the board."
Madhumita Bisht, an eight-time national singles champion, however, believes the SOP laid down by SAI is enough to conduct the camps safely. "The camp is for just 8 people and not all of them have joined so I think we don't need to worry so much because as sportspersons, their immunity is good. So if we can just follow the SOP properly, it should keep them safe. Also badminton is not a contact sport," she said. According to the revamped BWF calender, the next event for the Indian team is the twice rescheduled Thomas and Uber Cup which is slated from October 3 to 11.