AIU has decided not to send a team for the 27th Summer Universiade

Some of the more positive news in Indian sport in the last few weeks has come from badminton. We had the wonderful story of Andhra Pradesh’s K. Srikanth, who moved from doubles to singles and stunningly won the Thailand Open. And every time a Saina Nehwal or P.V. Sindhu takes to the court, we go on a merry ride of expectation.

But surprisingly, badminton stars do not figure highly in the Association of Indian Universities’ (AIU) scheme of things. The AIU has decided not to send its badminton team for the 27th Summer Universiade — the World University Games — which begins in the Russian city of Kazan on July 4. Badminton is a mixed team event at Kazan and apart from this, competitions will be held in singles and doubles.

The AIU has only cleared three events — athletics, swimming and shooting — for the Games. Badminton players from Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) here were naturally surprised and disappointed.

No improvement

“Badminton was given a chance at the World university event thrice, but the players have not improved,” said Gurdeep Singh, AIU’s deputy secretary (sports), from Delhi. “What is the use?”

A sports committee was constituted for the Games at Kazan and the decision to send athletes for the three events was taken at a meeting held in Guntur on May 25, he explained.

“The seven members of the committee were given the mandate to choose events where we have chances of winning medals,” said Gurdeep. “I am not part of that committee and I’m not going with the team.”

It is a fact that the Indian badminton team did not get anywhere close to a medal in the previous edition, but that has regularly been the case in athletics too.

Seven months ago, a messy selection policy and late clearance saw the badminton team miss the team events at the World university badminton championship in Korea.

“Our players were under much pressure after the selection controversy and there was no camp. And we couldn’t play the team events as we landed a day after the championship began,” said M.J. Mohanachandran, who was India’s coach at the Korea Worlds. “We have a stronger bunch this time; there are a few internationals too, so our chances are better.”

Arathi Sara Sunil, who played in the World junior championship, and junior internationals Sharon Raphael and Pranav Satheesh are some of the prominent players of the CUSAT and MGU teams, the National varsities’ champion.

Big hurdle

The players have another big hurdle to cross. The last date for applying for the accreditation certificates, which allows the players a visa-free entry into Russia, ended on June 6. They now have to go through the visa formalities, but before that, the team has to be cleared by AIU to travel to Kazan and entries have to be sent to the organisers.

“In case, the (sports) committee finds that there is some potential, the committee members can consult Mohanachandran,” said Gurdeep. “Or whoever is interested can send the request directly to the committee and it will act on it. I will certainly help them as the coordinator. Let the committee decide.”

Gurdeep also said that he had not received a request from the concerned universities to send their badminton players for the Universiade. But the university officials here have refuted it.

“I had sent a mail to him in this regard about three months ago,” said Binu George Varghese, Head of Mahatma Gandhi University’s Physical Education Department. The universities sent a fresh request to Gurdeep on Tuesday and the young badminton players are waiting for a positive verdict.

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