Abruptly dropped from CWG squad, Archana Kamath moves court challenging "questionable decision-making"
Initially included in the CWG table tennis squad as an 'exception', World No. 4 doubles paddler Archana Kamath was suddenly dropped. Shocked by the changing decisions of the CoA-run TTFI, Archana has moved the court.
The air around Indian table tennis has been foggy, at best, over the last few weeks with paddlers not knowing how to make sense of the team selection process used by the CoA-run Table Tennis Federation of India who announced the squad for the 2022 Commonwealth Games on 31st May.
Fast forward to seven days later with a lot of ruckuses already breaking out in the camp over the inclusion and exclusion of certain players - the CoA released an "updated" list of the squad, making a glaring change.
The heart of this very change concerns one Archana Kamath, the World No. 4 paddler in women's doubles along with Manika Batra who was included in the initial Commonwealth Games squad as an "exception" as she did not meet the selection criteria laid down by the TTFI, with proper justification for it as well.
"Under the existing selection criteria, one of the members (Archana Kamath) fall outside the top four. The selection committee is convinced that the existing guidelines are flawed...However, in this transitionary phase, with an eye on a rich medal haul in Birmingham, we have included the said player in the team. She (Archana Kamath) is one half of the doubles pair (Manika the other) that is ranked No. 4 in the world and which will be the top seeds at the Commonwealth Games," the CoA had clarified in a statement.
So on 7th June when Archana, not having any whiff that she might lose her place from the squad found out that the CoA has rather seamlessly dropped her, and included Diya Chitale instead, her surprise and that of her family knew no bounds, as she confessed to The Bridge, days after the sudden exclusion.
"The pair of Manika Batra and Archana Kamath did not deem it fit to even play in the open doubles in the 83rd Senior National championship (and that) questions their commitment to Doubles events," the CoA stated while dropping Archana and including Diya, who enjoys a higher-rank domestically but is at World No. 129, otherwise.
Morale affected by CoA's decision: Archana Kamath
"I am surprised that I was selected at the beginning of the month and within days my name was removed by the Federation," Kamath, 22, tells The Bridge, having spent a week trying to muster the strength and gather her thoughts on the whole mess that has unfolded since.
"This would certainly affect the morale of any professional athlete and the decision-making process itself is questionable," Kamath lamented, having filed a petition with the Karnataka High Court, challenging her exclusion. The first hearing of the case was done today.
The CoA's "decision-making process" has indeed been "questionable" with several players moving the court - Diya Chitale, Manush Shah, Swastika Ghosh and now even, Archana Kamath, all seeking a proper justification for the 'arbitrary actions' of the CoA.
For Archana, who trains at the Padukone Dravid Centre for Excellence in Bangalore, the last few days have been difficult and have tampered with her spirits and natural zest for the sport she has been consistently delivering performances in.
"I am saddened by the sudden decision of the Table Tennis Federation of India to exclude me from the Indian women's table tennis team selected for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, at Birmingham. I have proven myself time and again and my performance at the international level is not even considered," rued Kamath, who is ranked World No. 66 in singles, as well. Along with Manika, Archana has reached the highest-ever ranking by an Indian women's doubles pair at World No. 4 as well, for starters.
Her father, an ophthalmologist by profession, Dr Girish Kamath is also surprised on seeing the decisions of the CoA regarding the selections.
"There was a lot of sadness initially and rather tough because we had to gather our thoughts and understand what happened. All of us were surprised because they (CoA) went back on the selections that were already announced," Archana's father relayed.
"We feel Archana has all the merit but the selection criteria has focused on only certain aspects. Therefore, we have now moved the court and have full faith in the judiciary," he explained, noting how having to rush to the court for such confusing acts by the Federation has started becoming a bad trend now, that is hampering the overall image of Indian table tennis as well.
Archana's next hearing is scheduled for 22nd June, meanwhile.
The saga regarding the CWG selections for the table tennis team has indeed snowballed now and it remains to be seen how the CoA-led TTFI can bring clarity to the situation, hopefully soon.