India No. 3 Diya Chitale has filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court after being overlooked for the national Table Tennis squad that will take part in the upcoming Commonwealth Games with the Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by a former decathlete allegedly selecting a player who does not meet the eligibility criteria.
The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) is run by the court appointed CoA, which is headed by little-known former decathlete SD Mudgil.
Chitale’s petition prayed for a stay on the selection and her induction in the team as per present selection criteria which were allegedly bypassed by the selection committee to include Archana Kamath as Manika Batra’s doubles partner. It also wanted the court to revoke the ratification of the team by SAI.
The selection committee went with the world No. 4 doubles ranking of Manika-Archana pair but unlike in professional tennis circuit where there are fixed doubles pairs, the ITTF pro-tour doesn’t have any such hard and fast rules.
Also with Kamath not playing the doubles at the Senior Nationals, Chitale through her petition has accused the CoA of “lack of transparency” and allowing a case of ‘Conflict of Interest”.
“…the Respondent No. 1’s selection of Ms. Archana Kamath also suffers from unfairness and lack of transparency. This is because of the conflict of interest on the part of one of the members of the Selection Committee for Juniors i.e., Mr. Bona Thomas John is the personal coach of Ms. Archana Kamath and thus is capable of unfairly prejudicing the Selection Committee’s choices in favour of Ms. Kamath,” the petition stated.
The existing criteria which the decathlete-led CoA termed as flawed give 50 points to the top-ranked player in national rankings and 5 points to the No. 10.
For India’s top-10 internationally ranked players, the one with best ranking gets 30 points and the one who is 10th in the list gets three points.
And there are 20 more points, which are discretion of national selection committee and coach.
As per criteria, one needs to score 51 points or more to get selected in the team.
Accordingly, Chitale with her national rank of No. 3 earned 40 points through these criteria and full 20 points from selectors and coaches (given to everyone) and another 12 points from her international ranking, taking her tally to 72.
In case of Batra, it is a bit different as she is India’s top-ranked international player that fetched her 30 points and also full 20 points from coaches taking her tally to 50.
While Batra’s national ranking isn’t much of importance as everyone is aware of her qualities, Kamath, who is second in the international list with 27 points, also got 20 from the coaches, taking her tally to 47 which is five less than Chitale’s points.
Chitale in her petition has termed COA’s actions as “illegal, arbitrary and non-maintainable and hence, ought to be set aside.”
Her petition said that some subjective criteria have been taken into account to pave the way for Kamath’s inclusion.
“…said action of introducing subjective elements into the selection criteria with a view to benefit and include other players in place of the Petitioner, and that too, without any prior notice, and at the 11th hour, without justification, is manifestly arbitrary and liable to be set aside as being in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
The petition also stated that Kamath was “ineligible” for selection as per existing criteria.
“FOR THAT the Respondent No. 1 has erred in failing to appreciate that Ms. Archana Kamath is not eligible for selection and ought not to have been chosen as a part of the women’s table tennis team representing the country at the CWG.
“This is because Ms. Kamath’s scores under the Existing Criteria (47) as well as the New Selection Criteria (50) are lower than required to be amongst the top 4 players.”