India’s new-look squad for Commonwealth, Asian Games

Apr 20, 2022

  • Zenia D’Cunha

India’s team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is set after the conclusion of Badminton Association of India’s (BAI) selection trials on Wednesday, that were also used to decide the squad for the Asian Games and the Thomas/Uber Cups as well as a core group for the 2024 Olympics.

The CWG team consists of Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen in the men’s singles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy – Chirag Shetty in the men’s doubles, PV Sindhu and Aakarshi Kashyap in the women’s singles, Gayatri Gopichand – Treesa Jolly in the women’s doubles and B Sumeeth Reddy – Ashwini Ponnappa in the mixed doubles.

The women’s section, especially, bears a fresh look after interesting results at the selection trials.

What happened at the trials?

Aakarshi Kashyap won the women’s singles event, Priyanshu Rajawat the men’s singles, Treesa Jolly – Gayatri Gopichand the women’s doubles, MR Arjun – Dhruv Kapila the men’s doubles, and Ashwini Ponnappa – B Sumeeth Reddy the mixed doubles.

The Thomas/Uber Cup and the Asian Games have bigger squads as compared to the 10-member CWG team.

This means that Rajawat takes the solitary spot available in men’s singles while Aakarshi, Ashmita Chaliha and Unnati Hooda take the three available spots in women’s singles. The additional slots in women’s doubles went to Ashwini Ponnappa -N Sikki Reddy and Tanisha Crasto-Shruti Mishra. Arjun-Dhruv are took up one of two additional slot for men’s doubles along with Krishna Prasad G and Vishnuvardhan Goud P.

The rest will be part of the National Core Group. As per BAI, the top-8 men’s and women’s singles, top-6 pairs of men’s and women’s doubles as well as top-4 mixed doubles players will be selected in the group. This will be in addition to the players selected directly.

Where were the big guns?

As per a BAI notice, players ranked top-15 in the world were selected directly, hence the likes of PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, Lakshya Sen and the men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were automatic selections.

HS Prannoy, ranked world No 23, got a special dispensation as “all the selectors were of the unanimous view that since he has performed consistently at various top international events, and also beaten top players consistently, he should be considered for selection directly, without having to participate in the trials.” He was the only player to get such an exemption.

So who were the players called for trials?

In a letter to affiliated units, dated April 14, the BAI said that a group of 60 players were supposed to be picked through direct selection and selection trials. The players for said trials were invited based on the Badminton World Federation rankings, national rankings (based on the players’ performances in the ranking tournaments held in December 2021) as well as the core group selected in 2019 who currently train at ongoing National Coaching Camps.

The letter was said to be circulated on April 1 and players were requested to confirm their entries by April 10.

Not all invited players confirmed their entries, such as Saina Nehwal.

What was the selection procedure?

The procedure was said to be unanimously prepared by the selection committee of BAI “to provide equal opportunity to all the players in the fairest and most transparent manner.”

The trials were held in a league format with three stages of group matches to find the top player. Women’s singles winner Aakarshi Kashyap, for example, played and was unbeaten in seven matches across the three stages.

Where was Saina Nehwal?

The trials were the cause of some controversy last week, even before they began, as former world No 1 Saina Nehwal publicly pulled out of the trials and slammed the BAI for its scheduling.

The selection trials were announced on April 2 on Twitter and a letter was sent out to players a day before, while the Korea Open was on. The trials were held from April 15 to 20, which meant it clashed with Korean Masters. As per the official draw, Indian players were shown to have given a walkover at the Super 300 event.

Nehwal told ESPN that she chose to skip it because the timing would mean putting undue stress on her body. “Two weeks after Europe tournaments and a week and a half before the Asian Championships, I didn’t want to put my body through another set of matches. I can’t take that chance,” she said. She added she received no response from the BAI when she said she would not be able to take part in the trials (as of April 14).

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