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17 May, 2021
Uncertainty is the most stressful feeling, said someone, and right now the Indian badminton players are having through live through this. Especially, the ones hopeful who are either qualified for the Olympics or the ones who had been hoping to qualify for the same.
Ever since the badminton season grinded to a halt sometime last spring, there just haven’t been enough tournaments to allow the likes of Srikanth Kidambi and Saina Nehwal as well as doubles specialists such as Sikki Reddy & Ashwini Ponnappa a fair shot at Olympic qualification. Add to that the slew of cancelled tournaments since the completion of the New Orleans Open in France, there are no more tournaments left that offer a viable chance of qualification for India’s marquee players.
And yet, there is little confirmation yet from the powers that be at the BWF on the way forward – is it all done and dusted, or is there still hope, and if so then how – there is little forthcoming and all that the shuttlers have is uncertainty and some more of it.
How should an uncertain mind plan, prepare and stay in shape for the qualification that may or may not happen? How do players identify a routine and regime for themselves in such a widely speculative paradigm? Even for the ones who have qualified, right now there is little to no certainty about the games itself.
Sure enough, from the Badminton Association of India, they players have found the utmost possible support – liaising with their counterparts in other federations, as well as picking up the shuttlers cause with BWF, but at this juncture their hands seem to be just as tied as that of the players.
So where does that leave our players? For well over 18 months now they’ve had to train hard, play very little in terms of tournaments, and endlessly wait for a viable, long term plan for sustained badminton action.
2020 – was an aberration and everyone took it in their stride, but with 2021 turning out the same, if not worse, there are several careers that are now on the line. For a player who would have been 24-25 in 2020, taking out 2 years in their prime is a bloody blow to the peaks they could have scaled in their careers. For many this could be the last shot at the Olympics.
If those are challenges at one end of the spectrum, at the other end, budding players missing out on 2 years of age-group and developmental tournaments will never quite have the chance to go back and compete at those levels and come up the ranks. And then there are players on the second rung of the ladder in the national setup – not quite the top notched players yet but they are on the fringes, several of them are already looking at alternative career options – not because they want to, but because they have to. They are the larger pool of players from where the next champions are likely to emerge, and that pool is now going to be shallower.
Corona virus is sure crippling our society, but just as much it is crippling the sport of badminton and unless we have a viable, long term sustenance plan – a whole generation of players and their prowess could be lost! And that is not an exaggeration, really!