All England Championships: Top shuttlers pull out, vacate Gopichand academy
Two positive cases were reported from Madhapur and Gachibowli on Wednesday, which have sparked fear among players. Two academies of Pullela Gopichand are situated in Gachibowli.Updated: Mar 06, 2020 18:10 IST
Seven Indian players, including the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, have pulled out of the upcoming All England Open in Birmingham (March 11-15) due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. They have also decided not to train at Pullela Gopichand’s academy in Gachibowli, Hyderabad and are headed home after cases were reported in the vicinity.
Two positive cases were reported from Madhapur and Gachibowli on Wednesday, which have sparked fear among players. Two academies of Pullela Gopichand are situation in Gachibowli.
HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Sourabh Verma, and doubles players Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy, have also withdrawn from the All England, a Super 1000 event. “Those who are still confirmed to compete are PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy and Pranav Jerry Chopra,” said Badminton Association of India (BAI) secretary-general Ajay Singhania.
There were doubts regarding the All England Open—the most prestigious event in world badminton’s annual calendar—after the cancellation of the German Open in Mülheim an der Ruhr from March 3-8. With the Olympic qualification period ending on April 29, every tournament is important for the top players.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF), however, said on Wednesday that hosts Badminton England confirmed the All England Open will go ahead as scheduled.
The Indian team is scheduled to leave on Sunday and there could be more withdrawals in the coming days. “It is completely on the players to take a call whether they want to go, considering that the situation worldwide is bad,” said Singhania.
Parents of many players were concerned. The doubles players had a meeting with their Indonesian coach Flandy Limpele on Thursday morning where it was left to them to decide. Saina and Srikanth are still in with a chance to qualify for the Olympics and, therefore, chose to compete.
Saina, Srikanth to compete
Saina is lying at 22 place while Srikanth is 21st in Race to Tokyo rankings. A few good finishes might see them enter the top-16 and make the cut.
“No one wants to get infected. We have to travel to England and we don’t know what will happen when we come back if we have cough or cold which is normal when you travel to Europe. What if we are put in isolation for two weeks,” Parupalli Kashyap told Hindustan Times.
“There is a lot of confusion. We don’t know whether the Swiss Open (March 17-22) is happening, we don’t know whether we can travel to Malaysia (March 31-April 5) and Singapore (April 7-12). We don’t know whether the India Open (March 24-29) will happen? How can you prepare in this situation,” he said.
Shetty wanted to compete but Rankireddy made up his mind to pull out. The two are currently ranked eighth in qualification stage and are safely through. “Our parents are very scared and they told us no need to take the risk. We are ninety per cent in the qualification, so I thought it is better to pull out,” Rankireddy said.
“We discussed the matter with Flandy Limpele (doubles coach) and he said it is up to you. It is about your health. The main problem is travel. We would have gone through Dubai and there are cases everywhere, airports are crowded.
“People above 50 are more at risk. We are not at risk but if we pass it on to our parents and relatives, it will be dangerous.”
The players informed Gopichand’s mother Subbaravamma, who runs the academy, their decision to leave.
“Conronavirus cases have come up nearby... hardly 2km from the academy and everyone is scared. We heard that IT offices are being sanitised and some offices have asked employees to work from home. Since the report came out yesterday, even some of the roads look empty,” said Satwik.
He said the junior players of the academy are also leaving. “There are players from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and they are leaving. Gopi sir’s mother said it is better to go home and come back after a week if the situation improves. Everyone stays close by in the academy and it’s not worth taking the risk.”
Rankireddy will go to his hometown Amalapuram while Shetty will be back in Mumbai. They will assess the situation in a week’s time and if it does not improve, Rankireddy will travel to Mumbai and train with his partner.
Prannoy said he had dengue six months back and his immune system was still not good.“For those who are close to qualification, it is worth taking the risk. My immune system sure is not 100 per cent after the dengue attack,” said Prannoy.
Gopi too pulls out?
Gopichand and national selector Vimal Kumar will be travelling with the team as coaches, confirmed BAI. However a player on condition of anonymity said even Gopichand has decided not to travel. Gopichand was not available for comment.
Kashyap blasts BWF
Kashyap said BWF’s refusal to extend the qualification period is unfair on players like Saina and Srikanth who are on the fringes. He said the qualification calendar was not spaced out well and there were months with only one top event and then there would be 3-4 weeks of big events clubbed together, making it difficult for the players.
“It’s unfair to players who have a chance and Saina is very close. I don’t understand the attitude of BWF saying its good news that the tournament is happening. We all are scared here. I am asthmatic and I am worried but I have to travel because of Saina,” he said.
He said the events have left Saina distressed as she was just coming back to top fitness. “In the last six months, she hardly got to train. She was continuously injured for something or the other. For the last 3 -4 weeks she has trained well, but now we don’t know whether we get to play the remaining tournaments.”