Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Something rotten in the state of badminton

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This national body flouted rules with impunity while selecting three players for an international tourney[/h2]

By Prabir Biswas

Corruption and nepotism in sports bodies are nothing new in India. Those running these organizations and responsible for the growth of sporting talent in India, make it their personal fiefdom. No wonder that despite having a huge talent pool, India is unable to make a distinct mark as a great sporting nation.

Both Sabharwal and Manmohan Sharma were well past 40 years, while Abhishek Sharma (in his twenties) was a little-known player. Their inclusion in such a prestigious international event defied all logic.

 In yet another blatant case of rules being flouted with impunity to favor non-deserving candidates, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) selected three players — Apinder Sabharwal, Manmohan Sharma and Abhishek Sharma — as entries for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Iceland International 2015 held last month.


 What was shocking about these names was age. Both Sabharwal and Manmohan Sharma were well past 40 years (old enough to retire), while Abhishek Sharma (in his twenties) was a little-known player. Their inclusion in such a prestigious international event defied all logic. The tournament is meant to give promising shuttlers a leg-up in international rankings. Even the Badminton World Federation (BWF) website listed the details of all three, including their date of birth. While Apinder Sabharwal was born on 05-05-65 making him 49 years, Manmohan Sharma is 46 (20-04-68) and Abhishek Sharma is 22 (27-06-92). 

 To make matters worse, none of them played their first round matches in Iceland, revealed sources to India Legal, and reportedly called it quits at the 11th hour. Intriguingly, Apinder is a referee, while Manmohan, a cop from Punjab.

 One may argue that the players may have been sent on private basis. But going by the playing history of the three, BAI will have to do a lot of explaining. Its constitution clearly states that a player must have participated in four tournaments of repute, prize money tournaments worth more than Rs one lakh and selection tournaments for national teams to become eligible for playing in a tourney abroad on private basis. Apinder and Manmohan Sharma do not meet any of these conditions.


 India Legal spoke to Girish Natu, the liaison officer between BAI and BWF, but he categorically refused to comment and instead said that the man to contact was TPS Puri, BAI vice-president (administration). Despite repeated tries, Puri was unavailable over the phone.

 This incident reflects poorly on our sports administration and the country’s image abroad. Several questions need to be answered by BAI. For example:

a)     What was the criterion for selection?

b)    Where did the selection committee meet?

c)     On what grounds were people well past their forties selected for an international tournament?

d)    Why did the players quit at the last moment?

e)     Who bore the expenses of their trip to Iceland?

This is not the first time that BAI has landed itself in a controversy over sending wrong people abroad for tourneys. Last year, children of senior officials of BAI and Delhi Capital Badminton Association were sent to Japan for a program earmarked for promising shuttlers.

 Even the Delhi High Court in a judgment last year expressed its concern over the functioning of BAI and wanted the government to intervene and examine rampant irregularities in its running.

 It is high time the rot in sports bodies is stemmed and deserving candidates get their rightful due.

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