Kalyan Ashok

BANGALORE: The former National chief coach U. Vimal Kumar criticised Badminton Association of India's `retrograde' move to stop players from participating in the Super Series events in Singapore and Indonesia, even at their own costs.

In a chat with The Hindu here, Vimal, who is also a former National champion, questioned the BAI and the current National coach P. Gopi Chand's views regarding `fitness' of players. "When there is no way to evaluate fitness level of players in the ongoing camp at Hyderabad, I fail to understand on what basis players can be stopped from going on their own and asking players to concentrate on fitness, when their rankings at stake, is certainly an unfortunate and retrograde step which would harm their growth", said Vimal Kumar.

He disagreed with Gopi Chand's view that players could skip Super Series events and still get back into the reckoning. "This is the year for Olympic qualification and they need to play as many Super Series events as possible. Once they start skipping it, they will be forced to compete qualifying rounds and in the current format, a player would end up playing as many three rounds to get into the main draw. It is bound to take a heavy toll", said the coach.

Individual game

Vimal Kumar said that badminton being an individual game, the players should be allowed to train on their own if they wished. "Of course, I am not saying that they should skip the camps if it concerns a team event like Thomas Cup, Uber Cup or Sudirman Cup, but for tournaments such as Grand Prix and Super Series, if they wish to train on their own, please allow them'', said the former coach.

The BAI decision has affected top Indian players such as singles players Chetan Anand, Saina Nehwal, Anup Sridhar, Nikhil Kanetkar and doubles pairs of Sanave Thomas, Rupesh Kumar, Jwala Gutta and Shruthi Kurien, who could have made the main draw on their rankings into the Super Series at Singapore and Indonesia.

"Someone like Chetan Anand who is in the top 30 of the World cannot afford to miss Super Series and I don't think he needs to prove his fitness for playing the events and as a former player, I know how difficult it could be to get back into the rankings once you lose the position because of non-participation. My advice to BAI and others, would be let them go and why not when they are doing at their own costs", said Vimal Kumar.

Tough stance

He pointed out that during last European tour in March 2006, entries were not sent on time and the players had to suffer on account of that. Vimal Kumar also said that even Gopi Chand had faced a similar predicament a decade ago, when BAI administration took a tough stance on a tour. "But we all backed him'', he added.

On the decision of Chetan Anand, his wife Jwala Gutta and her doubles partner Shuthi Kuiren to skip Badminton Asia Confederation championship starting in Hyderabad on April 10, Vimal Kumar advised the trio to reconsider it. "Please go ahead and play the tournament and don't precipitate the crisis", the coach said.

But the onus was clearly on the BAI to sort out the issue amicably with the players, Vimal Kumar said. "If they can't help them, they should not harm them", he added.

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