"My fight is not against individuals but against a setup. I have done nothing wrong as captain of the Delhi Krrish Smashers franchisee in the IBL."
India’s ace women’s doubles shuttler, Jwala Gutta, said she would love to play on the badminton court and not engage in battles in the court of law. “That is not what I am looking for. I love to be out there,” she said pointing to Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium courts, where she learnt the basics of the game since she was 10.
Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa will miss the next week’s Denmark Open championship, where they were slated to play in women’s doubles as they could not complete the formalities, including getting visa by 4 p.m. on Friday.
Speaking for the first time after the Delhi High Court order, which directed the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to let her compete in the Denmark Open pending final view by a BAI panel, Jwala said though the BAI was not in direct contact with her, she was informed that the association had communicated to the organisers withdrawing its letter that barred her entry in the wake of the recent IBL (Indian Badminton League) row.
“My fight is not against individuals but against a setup. I have done nothing wrong as captain of the Delhi Krrish Smashers franchisee in the IBL. I had the support of every one, including my franchisee owners and many former players such as Prakash [Padukone] Sir and Vimal [Kumar] Sir,” Jwala said in the presence of Ashwini, parents and coach and mentor Dronacharya awardee S.M. Arif.
“I know it is not going to be easy to come out of this mess and focus on the sport. But, still I don’t think this is the worst phase of my career. Let me be honest, I was never down in this fight for the right to play,” she said.
“I always believe that no one can stop me from playing unless I decide to quit the sport. I am born to play badminton and can’t think of anything else,” she said.
“Yes, even now I and Ashwini are not sure for which tournaments the BAI has sent our entries in women’s doubles. We are actually preparing for the Denmark, French and the German Open this month and then for the China and Hong Kong Opens next month. If this is the treatment meted out to me, you can well imagine the plight of those who cannot even raise their voice against such biased actions,” she said.
“I tried my best to speak to Gopi [chief national coach P. Gopi Chand], top BAI officials and many others, but did not get any response. Well, Gopi only said that he was not in a position to comment on the episode. Yes, it would have been nice if he had a few words of moral support to me,” she said.
“I did take up the issue with the Union Sports Ministry and got a positive response of speedy justice.”
Ashwini, when asked whether she felt being “victimised” for siding with Jwala, said she had no other option but to support her partner who was fighting for a cause. “It is very disappointing to get this kind of treatment,” she said.
Intervening, Jwala said she was glad that her partner had understood her position and the importance of the battle against the BAI. The duo won the bronze medal in the World Championship a couple of years ago.
“Whatever happened is not good for the sport itself, leave alone how a Jwala or an Ashwini think about it. I decided to take it on for I believed that it is our right to play based on our performances. Just look at the results in the last one year when I did not play in any event and also before I started pairing with Ashwini in women’s doubles and V. Diju in mixed doubles at the international level,” Jwala said.
Renowned coach Arif felt that it was time the BAI set its house in order. “In fact, this is not what any athlete in India should look for having sacrificed so much to represent the country. Let there be rules and regulations and implement them with all sincerity,” he said.