India’s leading table tennis player Harmeet Desai feels he has been “unfairly” left out of the singles competition for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou.
Harmeet, an important member of the Indian table tennis team over the last 10 years, has been picked in the Asian Games squad but will only feature in team and mixed doubles events.
Veteran Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan have been picked ahead of Desai for the singles competition as only two entries are allowed.
“It is going to be my third Asian Games and as per the selection criteria, which includes both domestic and international performances, I should be playing singles as well and not just team and doubles,” Harmeet told PTI.
The 29-year-old from Surat on Tuesday became the highest-ranked Indian at the back of a productive last month when he reached the semifinals of the WTT Contender in Lagos and pre-quarterfinals in WTT Contender in Tunis.
He also beat two top-20 players along the way. He is now ranked 64 ahead of Sharath (69) and Sathiyan (88). However, when the team was picked on June 27, Desai (71) was behind Sharath (54) and Sathiyan (60) in the ITTF rankings.
As per the selection criteria of Table Tennis Federation of India, 50 percent weightage is given to domestic performances, 40 percent to international and 10 percent is left for selectors’ discretion.
TTFI secretary general Kamlesh Mehta said the decision of the selection committee was unanimous and players were picked for the singles event as per the international rankings at the time of selection .
“It was a unanimous call taken by the selectors who factored in the world rankings at the time of selection,” said Mehta, himself a former India player and Arjuna awardee.
The deadline to submit player entries to Indian Olympic Association was June 30 and July 15 for sending them to the Olympic Council of Asia.
Another federation official who is tracking the matter said the current selection policy is in place for picking the squad and entries for individual events are sent as per the international rankings.
Harmeet’s home state association of Gujarat has also written to TTFI expressing its disappointment over the player’s non-selection for the singles event.
“The current non-selection of Harmeet Desai coupled with his omission in CWG 2022 men’s Singles event disregarding his ranking and performance has jolted him and has come as a shocker for us at the State Association,” Pramod Chaudhary, president of Gujarat State Table Tennis Association, said in the letter dated July 9.
“Harmeet, who is in his prime form, is bound to put in his superlative efforts and performance representing the country and disregarding all the positives at this stage would be a big dampener.
“As per the information, the last date for sending entries by Indian Olympic Association to Organising Committee of Asian Games is 15th July, 2023.
“Hence, we hope that the selection of players done can be amended and players can be selected based on their current rankings and performances,” he further added.
Harmeet, Sharath and Sathiyan were part of the Asian Games squad that made history at the previous edition in Jakarta where India ended a 60- year wait for a medal by securing a bronze in the team event.
Sharath and Manika Batra made the campaign more memorable by securing a bronze in mixed doubles.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Games last year, multiple Indian players including Manush Shah, Archana Kamath, Swastika Ghosh and Diya Chitale had approached the court after not being picked in the India squad. Only Chitale managed to get TTFI’s decision overturned.
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