Monday, May 14, 2007

The state of Indian Badminton

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from Nikhil Kanetkar, the Badminton player, who is a friend of mine, as I have told you elsewhere. He talked about not being allowed to participate in International Tournaments by the Badminton Association of India (BAI). When I pressed for details, he sent me some mails, and links explaining what is happening. Here are excerpts from a news item.

What caused the heartburn was BAI’s directive in March that the Indian team should attend a two-month camp at Hyderabad instead of two Super Series events in Singapore and Indonesia. The Super Series, which consists of a circuit of elite tournaments open only to a draw of 32 players, is what every player aspires for. Even the All England has been made into a Super Series event. The big attractions of the Super Series are its prize money and ranking points. .......

Several players — primarily Chetan Anand (World No 30), Anup Sridhar (No 34), Saina Nehwal (No 22), Trupti Murgunde (No 50) and the doubles teams of Sanave Thomas/ Rupesh Kumar (No 36) and Jwala Gutta/ Shruti Kurien (No 25) — were affected because their rankings will slide down and this would make it difficult to qualify for other Super Series events. This, after a long hard slog last year to gain enough points to remain in contention. Besides, this is an Olympic qualification year, and it is critical to gain as many ranking points as possible. Missing two Super Series events will help other contenders gain rankings ahead of the Indians, who might have to go back to the grind of trying to qualify. Gopi(Pullela Gopichand) has countered protests by stating that there are enough tournaments left in the year to help players regain their rankings. But what he has tactfully left unsaid is that, when the players’ rankings drop 20 places or so, they will needlessly have to play the torturous qualifying rounds. Only four slots are available for 64 players, and a player will have to win four matches in a single day to qualify for the main draw.

The other decision which has hurt players is BAI’s insistence that only those who attend the national camp will be allowed to play the international circuit. This means that players not selected to the national camp cannot play international tournaments even if they are eligible and willing to foot the bill. Nikhil Kanetkar (World No 48), for instance, has been doing the international circuit at his own expense over the last three years. Kanetkar has been spending around Rs 6 lakh a year funding his international campaigns. The BAI decree means that he cannot play on the circuit despite being among the top 50 players in the world!

Read the whole story here.

Here are also excerpts of a mail that Nikhil Kanetkar wrote to Rajyavardhan Rathore (the Olympic medalwinning shooter)

Last year when Gopi became national coach I was not included in the list of 32 players for camp.He called me and said that the reason was because I am 27 years of age and they are planning for 2010 Commonwealth Games.I said nothing but told him that I have nothing against his plans but that I should not be stopped if I want to play on my own expense.He assured me that would not happen.Just to let you know the entries for international tournaments have to go through BAI.

I travelled all over the world using my own money and from 163 in May 2006 I came upto 41 in April 2007 in the world rankings.I had no support from BAI but I never complained.Even for Athens in 2004 I qualified on my own with my own money.I was not sent anywhere even though I was the highest ranked Indian the world rankings during that period.

Now coming back to the point last year Chetan Anand,Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurien(my wife) were selected for the camp but they did not attend and were travelling on their own expense and now Chetan is ranked 30 in the World and Jwala-Shruti are ranked 23 in the world.

Now from April 21st 2007 for two months they have a camp for the forthcoming Sudirman Cup which is in June.Also right now in the 1st and 2nd week of may are two Super Series tournaments in Indonesia and Sigapore where top 32 players are invited.The above mentioned 3 players along with a few others wanted to play in these SUper Series tournaments as non participation will lower their rankings upto 20 places each and being the Olympic qualification year you know very well how strong the competition level is in any sport.Going down 20 places means everyone goes back to square one and has to play in the qualifying rounds.The BAI refused to send any entries for the tournaments citing reason that they are not fit and they should attend camp.The players did not attend camp as their entries for the two tournaments were not sent.

Now I was not involved with this as I was sidelined anyway and was travelling on my own expense.But when I sent my entries for 3 tournaments which are also during this month I was refused reasons being given that if I am allowed to go others will opt out of camp and go on their own.So no one in India is allowed to play till June end which is disastrous as maybe now no Indian might qualify for the Olmpics when few players would have easily qualified.

The BAI officials say things like what is the use of playing Olympics or what is the use of just being ranked in top 40 in the World.How can they say that?In that case apart from you and some shooters no one should be sent for the Olympics.Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream for so many.It was for me too and I reached the last 16 stage in my event in Athens.

We have 8 Indians in the top 50 in Badminton in different events and they have done it on their own not due to BAI programmes.

We are not fighting for being in the Indian team.They can select who they want.All we want is to have the freedom to train and play as we want that to at our own expense.We are not even asking for government funds.Badminton is an individual sport and it is the fundamental right for any top ranked player to have the freedom to play for our country.

You can feel the pain and the frustration in this mail.

We ask what ails Indian sports - here you have one example of what ails it.

Politics, mismanagement, pure idiocy. Players like Nikhil, who are ranked in the top 50 in the world, pay out of their own pockets to participate in International Tournaments. I have no words.

I am itching to compare the Indian badminton scene and the Indian cricket scene - but I don't want to get my blood pressure up. I am sure you can connect the dots yourself.

What do you think?


Suresh said...

Have no words!
If it is really really frustrating for me as a reader, I can imagine what Nikhil and the other players must be going through.

If this trend continues, the time might not be far when athletes of "other" sports start competing under a different nationality where they might get a lot more encouragement. And if that happens, I'm sure we won't be wasting any time in praising them and referring to them as "Indian-American" or "Indian-Canadian"...etc.

Can't help taking credit. Can we?

Anil P said...

Couldn't agree more. It's not amusing at all to face this.

Srik said...

Where is the media????

Shruthi, you have done your bit to the country by posting it here.

Now we just hope that some mediocre authority of BAI and other sports reads this to know what is wrong with them.

Now we can understand why a billion people can not win an olympic medal for the country.

What a sad state of affair.

Nikhil and Co, I wish you guys the best. We're with you

Cuckoo said...

I have no words now. What a bad & sad state of affairs of Indian sports.

We all knew sports is politicized & personalized in India but this is something very saddening.

On one hand we send people who don't clear drug tests/overweights (basically unqualified) & on other hand restrict the deserving ones.

naveen said...

Read the report the other day in Hindu. But there never was a word about the Super Series and the effect the camp would have on players rankings and the Olympic qualifications.
Am with Srik here.. Where the hell is the media? They would have written pages together if it were Cricket..

Thanks for sharing all the info Shruthi.
Its really frustrating to read this.
Kudos to Nikhil and other sporstmen who still pursue their sport so diligently.

dev said...

I'm the chap whose news report (from Sunday Express) you quoted. Thanks,
Your post showed up on Google Alert, which is how I found it. That it got five responses is great.
As I mentioned, the real problem is that all our sports associations are undemocratic. They function as a sort of quasi-goverment body, completely immune to any accountability or questioning.
One of the ways to counter them is through the internet. We should never underestimate the potential of public opinion in this.

The One said...

To begin with I might have asked what is it that the players benefit from being a part of the national side, or even an association such as BAI. But I know better.

This post is such a sad read - the helplessness of the players is so palpable. I think it is only fair for all sport- team and indivdual to move to the F1/ EPL/ UEFA model.The reason why I say this is because it is only then that the inefficiens which plague all our national (and am sure state) level sports bodies will get eliminated.

Stone said...

Another heart breaking story!!!

Whole structure badly requires a major revamp, BAI, IHF (Indian Hockey Federation), Indian Football Association (IFA) etc etc(list is endless) are rotting!!!

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

We need accountability and democracy... nothing else will solve the problem. This is really saddening

praneshachar said...

It is a sorry state of affairs in the indian sports arena. It is true people like nikhil will have to fight and spend and they are lucky becasue they are affordable. see the plight of others who are deserving but can not afford they are out.
I have also heard from close an International level kabbadi player denied entry because he could not meet their demand ( yes it is vitamin M) they put some false charges of drugs on him and excluded that made that guy to become alchoholic and got ruined his entire career in his most favoured sport.
It is high time some good senses should prevail and true achievers and talents are supported.
with so much of corrupt set up and corrupt officials it looks the scene is very bleak for Indian Sportsman.
some NGO's should find a solution with the help of some genuine sports organisations in respective sports.

Vijay said...

This sucks !!!!

Players are always held hostage by the associations (this is common in ALL sport)...

I saw some interviews with these players a couple of weeks ago.. their concerns seem to be real.. its a pity that the association couldnt care less.

Anonymous said...

Frustrating & disgusting!
It very disappointing to learn that a player such as P Gopichand has not been able to enhance player morale especially when Indian badminton is flooded with some of the best talent in recent year.
Wonder when sports associations would be totally unhinged from immature,self-serving,shoddy,insensitive administrators ?

Thanks for bringing up this topic, Shruthi.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable, Badminton is one of the sports where we are doing well. I would not be surprised if it goes Hockey way. Kudos to bureaucrats and new found enthu of Gopichand.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Suresh. We're such a bunch of jokers as far as any sports is concerned, including cricket. I remember seeing a TV report where female athletes (if I remember right) were made to stay three or four to a room, and rise early to collect water, whilst officials lounged in 5-star hotels. The sportspersons ought to sue, really. It's criminal, the way they are treated.

[Stopping before I turn this comment into a rant! :)]


Anonymous said...

Its such a shame. And we have ad campaigns saying "India Shining" .. Its time we did something about it. How do we stop this rot?
Where do we start? How can we help our athletes ? Any ideas ?

Mridula said...

And one thought that with players like Gopi Chand becoming coaches, things should become easier! Very sad.

shark said...

I am deeply moved by this post!!!
High time the sports ministry does something beyond "cricket"!!!

I am not even finding words to say anything more. In one sport we give all the importance in the world and then they give us such dismissal performce back...
and there are sports like these where people are doing fantastically well without being even noticed.

What is the media doing? leave alone government!!!!

silkboard said...

Disclaimer upfront. I am a passionate sports guy myself and want our players to do well. Nikhil's story is sad indeed, and your post is moving.

However, just want to share an observation I have.

Posts and articles like these sort of expect two things. 1) That government should help and encourage (= fund and finance) 2) That government shouldn't interfere (= officials or politicos, keep off)

Expecting both is part of the problem. Sports can't get public funding till it rises in government's list of priorities. Someday. And if you expect someone to fund you, hard to expect no interference from that person or entity.

To me, public funding at 'higher' levels itself is the biggest source of the mess. Or else, how do you explain politicians running sports for decades without results (V K Malhotra, Suresh Kalmadi types). Why do you think good players change colors the moment they become officials? Why do you think many good players opt not to join the sports bodies and instead try grow the sport from outside?

Funding, if at all, should be at the school and university level, because that is where sport-persons are 'born'. But at higher levels, professional setups must sustain things. That is how see quality improvements at large scale in our country.

Ooops, grew into a v long comment. Thanks for reading.

chitra said...

Humbug I say....!! Talent is not at all considered!! Baah!

Shaji.k said...

well, this is the way organisations for the promotions of sports work in India. sportspersons are their last priority. i am into tennis and the case of the all india tennis association is no different. it's controlled by a father-son duo and their yes-men in the various state associations. civil society should wake up and act to end this sports bureaucratism.

Kishor Cariappa said...

Same story, different setting!

This is what will happen if politicians and babus head our sporting associations.

Mysorean said...


19th May, Saturday, The Hindu.

"Sit down and sort out the problems

Bangalore: Prakash Padukone believes that the simmering discontent in India's badminton circles can be sorted out. Padukone, who had maintained a studied silence over the issue, finally spoke his mind on Friday.

"I don't see it as being such a major problem and I am sure a solution will be found. When there is a problem people should address it rather than sit on their prestige. I am sure if the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and the players sit down and discuss the issue, it will be sorted out. Unfortunately right now, both parties are talking to each other through the press. There is a communication error," Padukone told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference organised by the Karnataka Badminton Association here on Friday.

Axing of top players

Padukone was referring to the controversy that trailed the two-month long National camp in progress at Hyderabad and the non-attendance of which led to the axing of some top-notch players from the National team, including Chetan Anand, Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurien, who have been vocal about their protests.

The players stressed that attending the camp would prevent them from participating in the Super Series events in Singapore and Indonesia, which would help them garner crucial points in an Olympics-qualification year besides gaining a slice of the prize money. The trio missed the events, with BAI refusing to allow them to play even at their own cost.

The badminton legend said: "Let us not get into who was right and who was wrong. Forget Singapore and Indonesia, its over. Let them talk and arrive at a solution. I have my own ideas on this issue. Point number one is that let the BAI revert to the original team that they had informally finalised in March. I mean the team that also included Anup Sridhar, Chetan Anand, Diju, Jwala Gutta and Shruti.

There is still time for the Sudirman Cup (June 10 to 17). Let there be a two-week camp and if these players don't turn up, then drop them. By this we at least have the option of fielding the country's best team."

"Point number two is that let the BAI give an assurance that it won't stop players from going on their own to compete in Open tournaments. In fact the money that is being saved by this could be spent on some promising young player. I mean if a player is willing to foot his/her own bill for his tours abroad, why stop him/her?"

Shorter-duration camps

"Another important point is to have shorter-duration camps. Say a two-week or a three-week camp and let the time-frame be decided early so that it doesn't clash with key tournaments," Padukone said.

"The best thing is to have a longer six-week endurance camp before the season begins so that the players can build on that through the year. And finally once you announce a camp for a tournament where India's official team is set to participate, ensure that the players attend the camp or else drop them but don't curtail their participation in Open tournaments."

"At the end of the day, the association wants the players to do well and the players too want to do well, so I don't see a big problem. It just needs to be sorted out. You have to strike a balance, you cannot have camps all the time and you cannot play tournaments all the time," Padukone added."

Can you tell me what the 'Sports Ministry' has done for cricket?

Bingo! Imran Khan once said, "If you have honorary secretaries and honorary presidents for your sports boards then you will only get honorary players!".

In the same way we can say, "If we have politicians heading the sport, you will only get politicians out of the sport not sportsmen!"

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shark said...


The sports ministry might not "fund" cricket in India, BUT then it's focus is cricket.
Though most of the decisions are made by BCCI, the ministry still holds the rights of administration.

There is an "idirect" hand.

Citing an example.
My Aunt works in a nationalized bank. A person applied for a clerks post under sports category. He was a state level athlete. BUT his application never got processed. He then finally went and played some state level cricket matches and produced the certificate, he got the job within 6 months!

After all this dismissal performace in world cup, the sports ministry has asked for a report from BCCI, asking them to furnish all the details about fund management etc. Does the same ministry even care if we do or not do well in any other sport?

and you are 100% right on your words when you said this:

In the same way we can say, "If we have politicians heading the sport, you will only get politicians out of the sport not sportsmen!"

Couldn't agree with you more!

Silkboards comment/solution is perfect! :)

Mysorean said...


"The sports ministry might not "fund" cricket in India, BUT then it's focus is cricket."

I don't get the connection between "funding" and "focus".

I will juxtapose two sentences from your comment, please help me understand as I think they are mutually contradictory:

"Though most of the decisions are made by BCCI, the ministry still holds the rights of administration."


"the sports ministry has asked for a report from BCCI, asking them to furnish all the details about fund management etc."

More importantly, I don't want to get into this cricket versus other sports in India. It is only going to spoil the spirit of this post. So, let me leave it with that.

srini said...

I have been following indian badminton and seen them in various tournaments when they play in the far east.
I have also heard the Indian BA plan.
I think that the players are merely happy to be in the rankings and play the olympics. They have no chance of reaching the quarters also of the olympics.
The performance of these players at the europeans was very bad.
they lost to france,Austria,austalia and some of them lost their matches in 18 min(was head lines here Chong Wei beat indian champion in 18 min)
They need to train hard like these players in malaysia,china,indonesia
and when they start to play the world level play abroad.
Disgraceful to see teams which come and lose with no fight also.
The Indian BA plan that the players need to train before they play international events i think will be better for the palyers in the long run.Except for Prakash and Gopi now anup and Saina most of the indian team needs to improve a lot to beat the top players.
The girls doubles is bad and players are basic.They have not won more than 2 rounds in their tournaments(except sattelites)
The indian Players get to a level and then we do not see the drive.
We had Rexy drop the All england champions for lack of discipline and I think the players are acting rather rebellious despite being given chances to be part of the team.

Emmet said...

I have heard all sorts of bad things surrounding the politcs in badminton india. It is a shame, because India really has some great, and very talented players. I met a handful of them at the Denmark Open this past fall. I hope things get settled so the team can prosper.

nithin said...

me too totally shattered
iam also a badminton player ranked in my state doing my school, these things make me come to a conclution that

Anonymous said...

India will never be a sports nation unless billions are spent on infrastructure;a country like Ivory coast is ranked>20 in FIFA soccer rankings. Indian infrastructure is crumbling, the average Indian diet is not meant to be consumed by an athlete.
In Other countries including China, sports nutrition is an important area. The typical Indian eats a lot of grains and little meat and vegetables. You see the typical Indian as flabby and non-muscular - you would not find so many flabby East Asian or European athletes.

Anonymous said...

A lot has to change in Indian Culture as well. Kids are forced to do too much mindless homework in the pressure to excel in academics. Unless sports as a part of life is ingrained in the minds of every parent, it is hard to change anything in India.Recently, an India tennis star went to Australia and commented that middle aged Australian women overtook him in a marathon.
How many kids do we see doing marathons( in the heavy traffic?). Bottomline, on a scale of 10, the infrastructure needs to improve from the current 0 to atleast 5 or above.
A small country like Singapore has more than fifty Indoor badminton facilities , some of them even air conditioned. I have seen one in my medium cized city with an asbestos roof and no water or toilets.

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