The 12th World university badminton championship begins at Gwangju (Korea) on November 6, but the Indian team is yet to be cleared by the Union Sports Ministry.
The team members for the mixed team competition, including five girls from Mahatma Gandhi University (Kottayam, Kerala) have been kept in suspense following selection trials in Delhi on October 24 and 25 last.
It now transpires, 14 of the top players of various universities did not compete in the trials “under protest” since the format was flawed, the selection process “manipulated” and the trials conducted against well-established norms.
With the ministry having discontinued funding of teams proposed by the Association of India Universities (AIU), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has not given its clearance to the team.
Now, there is a note from one of the selectors, multiple-time National champion and international, Madhumita Bisht, pointing out the gross mismanagement of the trials and biased selection process to “accommodate” favourites.
According to her, the selection panel was headed by a Physical Education Director who had a cricketing background and included a former tennis player.
Madhumita told The Hindu on Thursday that she had refused to sign the selection committee’s recommendations and that she had brought the irregularities to the notice of the former Sports Minister, Ajay Maken.
Following adverse reports against the functioning of the AIU sports wing, especially the incidents at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, in August last year, the ministry had directed the SAI not to entertain proposals from the AIU for funding of teams in international competitions.
At the Universiade, according to reports, the AIU Deputy Secretary, Gurdeep Singh took over the role of the Indian team’s flag-bearer, much against convention.
The incident did not go down well with the Sports Ministry which was seized of the perennial controversies related to the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy, the symbol of team supremacy in university sports. For the past few years the MAKA Trophy issue has been fought in the courts.
However, with the Kerala Government and the Kerala ministers in the Union Government applying pressure things moved encouragingly on Thursday for the badminton team.
The Union Sports Ministry directed the SAI on Thursday to look into the matter, at least temporarily lifting the restriction on AIU teams.
The SAI, caught in a difficult situation, has decided to refer the selection to government observer in badminton, Dinesh Khanna.
Madhumita said that the practice of the top four teams in the all-India university championships being roped in for the trials was given up and instead an ‘open trial’ was conducted. Any player having a college identity card was allowed to compete.
She said the knock-out draw was unfair to the players in a selection trial and many top players were drawn in the same half without giving a thought to their rankings.
Players from the top four men’s teams in the last all-India university championships, Panjabi University, Guru Nanak Dev University, Delhi and Udaipur, pulled out from the trials.
Delhi, which was second in the women’s team contest, to MGU, also did not field its top players.
A protest from the Delhi University Sports Council over the format of the trial was withdrawn later. The Secretary of the Delhi University Sports Council, Dr Meera Sood said on Thursday that she had withdrawn the protest since the players had not participated in the trials and the step was against the spirit of sports.
“At a time when we are doing well in badminton, with Saina (Nehwal) having just won an Olympic medal, we should not field a sub-standard team in an international competition,” said Madhumita.
Gurdeep Singh was not available for comments.
“Whenever you call him, he doesn’t pick up the phone or he says he is in a meeting. The AIU is a big mess,” said Binu George Varghese, the MG University’s Director of Physical Education.
Keywords: World university badminton championship