Sindhu boost for India, persuaded to play Uber Cup

Sindhu changed her mind after a call from Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Himanta Biswa Sarma requesting that she reconsider the decision.
PV Sindhu in action against Mugdha Agrey of India during India Open 2019.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
PV Sindhu in action against Mugdha Agrey of India during India Open 2019.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Sep 07, 2020 11:41 PM IST
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NEW DELHI | BySandip Sikdar and Avishek Roy

India’s Uber Cup hopes received a big boost on Monday after world champion PV Sindhu agreed to play in the world team championships for women, having pulled out of the biennial event five days earlier citing “personal reasons”.

Sindhu changed her mind after a call from Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Himanta Biswa Sarma requesting that she reconsider the decision. “The president has advised me to play and I have reworked my personal commitments. I stand by the president and BAI’s advice to play the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals,” Sindhu said from Hyderabad.

The 25-year-old’s presence means India will send its strongest squad for the Uber Cup, to be held with the Thomas Cup men’s competition, in Aarhus, Denmark, from October 3 to 11. It will be the first major tournament after a long break forced by the pandemic.

The men’s team though has been weakened.

The world No.10 doubles pair Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy pulled out as the latter is Covid-19 positive. “I had to get re-tested on Monday but that will now happen tomorrow as there was no availability,” Rankireddy said from Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh.

A further blow was dealt when singles players HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and Sourabh Verma turned down BAI’s request to play, raising concerns over the pandemic. “My family is not keen on sending me under the current circumstances,” Prannoy said from Thiruvananthapuram.

The full-fledged national camp for the Thomas and Uber Cup did not start in Hyderabad on Monday as scheduled due to confusion between the authorities and players. Sports Authority of India (SAI) is yet to put in place the elaborate protocols for the camp as it could not arrive at a conclusion with BAI on the length of the quarantine period.

According to SAI, players will have to produce a Covid-19 negative certificate (RT-PCR test) before they are allowed into the Pullela Gopichand academy (camp venue). They will have to then be in quarantine and take another test on the sixth day. They will be allowed to train only after clearing the second test.

BAI wants the quarantine period to be relaxed if the players are negative as its selection committee needs a few days to assess them before announcing the team on September 17. “If we spend all the time in quarantine how will we train for selection and the tournament?” a top singles player said on condition of anonymity.

A SAI official said it generally made players undergo tests after arriving for the camp. “Here we are asking them to come with their test results so that it takes less time for the entire process. The quarantine period is essential for every member of the camp,” the official said.

Players who arrived and produced Covid-negative certificates on Monday were asked to wait. “The protocols have still not been completely put in place. We wanted to train today but have been asked to wait,” said another player, who also did not wish to be identified.

A SAI statement on Sunday said all campers will have to stay at the Gopichand academy to ensure greater safety. “We (the local players) have not been told anything about staying at the academy yet,” added the player, who like others from Hyderabad is insisting on attending the camp while staying at home.

Twenty-six players have been shortlisted for the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, of which 20 (10 men and women each) will be selected.

“We have to send the team list to BWF (Badminton World Federation) by September 18. We need some time (before that) to assess fitness as the players are coming back from lockdown and haven’t played matches,” said a BAI official.

Asian contenders Thailand pulled out of the tournament on Tuesday, joining Australia and Chinese Taipei. The replacements are yet to be announced for the events featuring 16 nations each.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022