AFTER THE juniors, it's the turn of the seniors to bear the brunt of the simmering tension between the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and the Sports ministry with the government denying financial support to half the team for the Croatia and Portugal Open starting next month.
Only four girls and four boys from the 16-member squad, selected soon after the senior nationals in Goa last month, were cleared at full cost to the government on Thursday, BAI secretary L C Gupta told Hindustan Times on phone on Friday.
Those who have been left out include Ajay Jayaram, Jishnu Sanyal in men's singles, Gayatri Vartak and Dhanya Nair in women's singles, junior doubles champions Ashwini Ponappa and Nitya Sosale and men's doubles pair of Shanker P Gopan and Alwyin Francis.
It is not mandatory for the government to clear all the selected players on cost but what was surprising in this case is that it came so late as the team is set to leave on March 3. Sports secretary SK Arora and joint secretary I Srinivas could not be contacted as they were in a meeting.
It is also learnt that the ministry had sought from BAI a report on the performance of the players, which was supplied.
The BAI has now asked all those denied clearance whether they can fund their trip but with little time at their disposal only Jayaram is willing to foot the bill.
"I need to play these tournaments. I have missed out on many tournaments due to jaundice and cannot afford to miss these two," he told Hindustan Times.
But the others prefer to stay back. "It's not just the finances. But also the logistics that needs to be done," said Vartak, who had earlier planned to play in the tournaments on her own. "But since I was selected in the team I was relaxed. Even if they had conveyed the decision to us 10 days ago I could have managed but not now."
Vartak's case is all the more peculiar since the Pune girl has been in fine form and had reached the semifinals of the Welsh Open in her last international outing, raising question mark over whether performance was the only criteria behind the ministry's decision.
This is the second time since BAI president V K Verma's outburst against the sports ministry and Sports Authority of India that only a partial team is cleared. The government had extended financial support to only six of the 10 members in the junior squad for the Dutch and German open earlier this month and the remaining four had to withdraw from the tournaments.
Though ministry sources declined to give reasons behind the decision, a senior BAI official admitted that the strain in relationship with the ministry was affecting the players. "Earlier also a few names used to be omitted but now it's happening more and more," he said on condition of anonymity.
"And it's not just a tussle between the ministry and BAI. But it's a larger face off between the ministry and Indian Olympic Association (IOA)," he added hinting at the proximity between Verma and IOA president Suresh Kalmadi.
The tour is part of BAI's preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and with just three years to go for the quadrennial event the tug of war is hardly a good sign.