India's sports ministry has drastically slashed its Asian Games contingent, leaving out no-hopers at the continent's showpiece event, media reported on Wednesday.
The ministry pruned the squad to 387 from the original 589 proposed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), removing football, basketball, handball, sepak takraw, triathlon, ten-pin bowling, rugby sevens and fencing teams.
The government, which foots the bill for the entire contingent it agrees on, also scratched several names from other squads like badminton, boxing and wrestling.
Only five of the 10 boxers were cleared while six of the seven Greco-Roman wresters were dropped for the December 1-15 Games in the Qatari capital of Doha, the reports said.
The sports ministry declined to give reasons for the cutback, but the Times of India said the move was made to avoid embarrassment to the country at the Games.
"It seems the cash-strapped ministry has decided to stop sending 'also-rans' and 'passengers' to big events," the newspaper said.
"It will not only help them save money but also help them save the blushes, because all the squads scratched were not seen as medal prospects."
Teams not cleared by the sports ministry can still make the trip to Doha at their own expense, but IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi said he was hopeful the ministry will reconsider its decision.
"It's a big squad, we agree, but we have to look at the future," said Kalmadi. "This was perhaps the best way to let our athletes have some good preparation since we are going to stage the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"Sports like rugby sevens will be played at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games would give players the necessary international exposure."
At the last Asian Games in Busan in 2002, India won 11 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals, finishing eighth in the overall tally.