Following the Hindustan Times report on Friday about how shooter Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, was thinking of quitting the sport because of the attitude of the government and the National Rifle Association of India — the sport’s apex governing body — the Sports Ministry and the NRAI each tried to palm off the blame on the other.
Speaking to HT on Saturday Bindra said: “The NRAI says it’s following ministry guidelines and the ministry says selection is NRAI’s prerogative. I don’t know what to believe. They have been playing ping-pong for many days and I am the ball. Frankly, I am tired of it.”
Hindustan Times had reported how the NRAI wanted Bindra to turn up for all trials in India, notwithstanding his international results, and at the cost of disrupting his training at top-notch competitive events abroad.
“I’m completely distraught. This has been an emotional, energy-sapping situation. I am leaving for Europe in five days and I will take a call on my future course of action after consulting my coaches,” he said.
Bindra was reacting to various statements emanating from the federation and the ministry through the day. NRAI secretary Rajiv Bhatia told PTI, “We are being made scapegoats in the matter despite the fact that we are not even in the picture. It is the Sports Ministry that had asked Abhinav to attend trials before sanctioning finances for his training trip. How can the NRAI be blamed for it? We have never pressured him to attend trials.”
Hindustan Times has the letters Bindra exchanged with the ministry as well as the NRAI. A letter from the Ministry of Sports to Bindra, dated July 17, '09 says: “…the National Rifle Association of India has intimated that you must participate in the following selection trials/competitions: i) Selection
Trials: December 2009, ii) CW Shooting Championship: February 2010, iii) ISSF World Cup, March 2010.”
On Saturday, Injeti Srinivas, Joint Secretary in the Sports Ministry, told PTI: “The Ministry insists on NSFs (national sports federations) having a well-calibrated selection criteria implemented in a transparent manner so that it results in the best team representing the country.”
“Now what the criteria should be is something left entirely to the National Sports Federations.”
A letter to Bindra from the ministry, dated September 9, says the “criteria” are actually the trials. “Thus, participation in selection trials becomes essential for any player to take part in international events.”
Bindra said he has been trying from July last year to get the ministry and the NRAI to respond to his queries on selection.
On September 17, 2009, he wrote to the Director Sports, and explained why his international results should be used to judge his form.
He marked copies of the letter to the Sports Minister and NRAI secretary.
He said he had had no response till Saturday evening when a fax from the ministry just lobbed the whole issue back into NRAI’s lap. The fax basically says that if NRAI changes the selection criteria, then it has no objections to that.