On Tuesday, the selectors of the Indian table tennis team named a four-member women’s squad for the Commonwealth Games, subject to clearance from the Sports Authority of India after Archana Kamath was included in the side despite not meeting the existing criteria.
Kamath is the second highest-ranked Indian player at 66 after Manika Batra (39) but she was not among the top four players going by the existing selection criteria which also factors in domestic performance.
The Committee of Administrators (CoA) plans to tweak the selection guidelines in the future.
The chosen players are Manika, Archana, Sreeja Akula (rank 66), Reeth Rishya (100), with Diya Chitale (129) as the standby.
Experienced players like Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee were ignored.
Explaining the reasons behind awaiting concurrence from SAI, S D Mudgil, CoA representative and chairperson of the selection committee said, “Under the existing selection criteria, one of the members (Archana) falls outside the top four.
“The selection committee is convinced that the existing guidelines are “flawed” and has moved to make a necessary course correction, with new guidelines effective from October 1.
“However, in this transitionary phase, with an eye on a rich medal haul in Birmingham, we have included the said player in the team. She (Archana Kamath) is one half of the doubles pair (Manika the other) that is ranked No. 4 in the world and which will be the top seeds at the Commonwealth Games.
“Therefore, the selection committee feels that this is a case worthy of consideration by SAI.”
The men’s team which has been picked is a more straightforward one, consisting of the great Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai. Manush Shah will be the standby.
Mudgil also made it clear that all the 15 players (eight men and seven women) at the camp will be fielded at the ensuing World Table Tennis Tour events in Zagreb (Croatia), Ototec (Slovakia) and Budapest (Hungary) in June-July as part of an ongoing process to bolster the strength of Indian table tennis.
The CWG-bound paddlers will also be provided with an acclimatisation camp in partnership with a leading European team.
The aim is to have 10 Indians in the world’s top-100
The CoA led by Justice (retd) Gita Mittal was appointed by the Delhi High Court in February this year to “clean up the TTFI”.
Unveiling an ambitious five-year plan that envisages setting up a national academy along the lines of the National Cricket Academy, with regional academies in four other cities, she said, “The aim is to have at least 10 Indians in the top-100 in the world in both the senior and the junior categories among men and women.
“For that, we need cooperation from all quarters, not criticism just for the sake of it.”
Justice Mittal insisted that the CoA would like to carry out its responsibilities and exit as quickly as possible.
“We want to put structures in place and ensure a smooth transition. For us, all players are equally important. Also, the player is the most important stakeholder and it is in their best interest that we will function,” she added.
The squads were picked after a week-long national camp at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence in Bangalore.