Indian women's doubles shuttler Prajakta Sawant on Saturday took a dig at the Badminton Association of India (BAI) for the selection of the Indian badminton team representing the country at the South Asian Games (SAG) in Nepal. Prajakta alleged the selection committee of 'favouritism' mentioning that players who don't even feature in the domestic tournaments have been selected for the regional multi-sporting event.
The BAI, however, denied any allegations, however, hasn't been able to show how the players have been picked based selection criterion.
According to the entries on the official SAG website, women's doubles players Kuhoo Garg, Meghana Jakkampudi and Anoushka Parikh found a place in the 11-member Indian team but Shikha Gautam and Ashwini Bhat K, who had claimed their maiden National Championship title earlier this year, were ignored.
In a conversation with The Bridge, Prajakta said, "I got to know that Shikha Goutam, and Ashwini Bhat, who are the women’s national doubles champion are not going to the South Asian Games. I don't understand then what is the point of winning nationals and All-India tournaments when you do not get selected to play international tournaments."
In a series of tweets, Sawant had questioned the selection of the team and urged BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma to look into the matter.
"SAF (sic SAG) Games team for Badminton is already decided unofficially..players are putting stories on Instagram and Facebook of arriving at Nepal. On what basis the selection has been done?? @himantabiswa @BAI_Media," Sawant wrote on her twitter handle.
She told The Bridge, "Gayatri Gopichand, Anoushka Parikh, Kuhu Garg are all in the team. Kuhu Garg hasn’t won any tournament. She is selected because her mother is a member of BAI. It happened same last year, they withdrew my entry to put Kuhu’s name during World Championships. If a player doesn’t perform in nationals, then they say players have international rankings."
Sawant is of the opinion that players from Badminton legend Pullela Gopichand's academy are taken into consideration during selections despite not having the mettle. She told, "Nobody has the clarity on the players' selection and people in Gopichand's Academy are well aware about all this. I am surprised how Malvika Bansod from Maharashtra never got selected but Gopichand’s daughter, Gayatri Gopichand found herself in the team."
BAI President, however, in a PTI statement, claimed there was no favouritism in the selection of the team. "BAI select team for tournaments on the basis of a set criteria. Team for South Asian Games have also been selected as per set criteria which is in consonance with the affidavit filed by BAI in Delhi and Kerala High court. No favour has been given to anyone," Sarma told PTI.
Though the official list of players was put on South Asian Games website, players like Srikanth Kidambi, Sikki Reddy, Dhruv Kapila, Meghna, Krishna Prasad, Aryaman Tandon joined the bandwagon as seen on Instagram story of Tandon. In another post by Dhruv, photos of Arun George, Sanyam Shukla could be seen added in the contingent.
The team event will begin on Sunday, while the individual competition is scheduled to start on December 3.
In the last edition held in Guwahati, India had claimed both the gold and silver medals in all five categories -- men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles -- besides winning the men's and women's team events.