A fight for the right to play for India | india | Hindustan Times
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A fight for the right to play for India

india Updated: Dec 23, 2008 23:17 IST
Ajai Masand

Karm Kumar turned 17 on Tuesday. It wasn't a happy birthday. The teenager is in the middle of an intense battle, victory in which would give him the right to play for India.

Squash player Karm's fight for what is as yet denied to him by the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) could turn out to be one of the most high profile cases the Delhi High Court has seen, with implications far beyond him. It’s a story that will be one that a lot of Indians and those of Indian origin will be following closely.

The Delhi player — who was born and has grown up here — is a British citizen who has never ever visited UK and got a passport because his father holds a British passport. His mother is an Indian citizen and both parents are of Indian origin.

In April 2007, he obtained the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, the status of which is higher that a PIO (Person of Indian Origin). He represented India in the u-15 Asian Junior Individual Squash Championship and recently won the SRFI-recognised DDA U-19 open and the CCI Western Open in Mumbai.

But the SRFI has taken him off the list of the 2010 Commonwealth Games probables submitted to the Sports Ministry because of his British passport. What makes this fascinating is that tennis players like Prakash Amritraj, Shikha Uberoi and Sunitha Rao (all PIOs and US passport holders) have represented India in events like the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, the Olympics and the Asian Games.

In a direct reference to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), the SRFI contended that if some federations were willing to accommodate such players it was their problem. It also contended that Karm cannot represent India in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) as he is not a citizen or subject of India, adding that the Games constitution was very clear on the subject.

In that case, it doesn't make sense that Amritraj, Uberoi et al are in the list of CWG probables.

AITA executive director Ranbir Chauhan told HT that there were no set guidelines from the Ministry. "We only require a clearance from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) clearing the player to play for the country.”