It’s official. People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) can forget about playing for India. As reported by Hindustan Times on Wednesday, it is a radical shift likely to be highly controversial.
It will effectively break India’s tennis team, with Vijay Amritraj’s son, Davis Cupper Prakash Amritraj, women players Sunitha Rao and the Uberoi sisters, Shikha and Neha, all US citizens, being ineligible to play. Sunitha has represented India at the Beijing Olympics and Shikha played in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
The government has decided that players who are not Indian citizens won’t wear India colours. A Sports Ministry official told Hindustan Times on Thursday that details of policy could be announced on Friday. “It’s a policy made after consultations with sports federations and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The view that emerged was that the honour of representing the country should not be given to a foreign citizen.”
The other factor leading to the decision was budgetary constraints. “ When it is a question of Indians versus others, the government’s priority is Indian citizens. We have no problems with non-resident Indians (NRIs). But we have reservations on PIOs and OCIs,” adds the official.
Despite the ministry saying there was a consensus, the IOA brass is livid. Its secretary general Randhir Singh insisted the Ministry “had not got in touch”.
He said: “If it’s okay with international federations, we have no issues. Any Indian origin player can represent India.” Does a battle lie ahead?