Two-time Commonwealth Games champion Saina Nehwal is among shuttlers who will be skipping the national badminton trials for the Asian Mixed Team Championships, to be held in Dubai from February 14 to 19.
Former world number 1 Saina was named along with Aakarshi Kashyap and Malvika Bansod for the trials. The senior selection committee named them to pick the second women’s singles player who will join double Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu in the squad for the Asian meet.
However, Saina and Malvika both have decided to skip the trials.
“Saina and Malvika have informed BAI about their unavailability for the trials. Hence, Ashmita Chaliha has been invited for the trials. There are few other pull-outs as well,” a Badminton Association of India (BAI) source told PTI.
With both Saina and Malvika not available, it will be a fight between Aakarshi and Ashmita.
Saina endured a tough 2022, battling multiple injuries and a lack of form that saw her slump to world number 31.
The 32-year-old had skipped the selection trials for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in April last year to manage her workload after returning from three weeks of European events.
The selection committee has decided to give singles players Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, Sindhu and men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Ranikreddy and Chirag Shetty direct entry into the squad based on their superior world rankings.
The committee, which had a virtual meeting on December 25, decided to pick the rest of the 14-member team in trials, which have now been turned into a one-day affair following the unavailability of players.
It is also learnt that MR Arjun has suffered an injury and will not be available for the trials, making the race for the men’s doubles spot a knockout contest between Krishna Prasad Garga-Vishnuvardhan Goud P and Ishaan Bhatnagar-Sai Patheek K.
The winner will join Satwik and Chirag in the team.
Former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy will also be not available for the trials as they had parted ways a few months back.
There are two spots at stake in women’s doubles, with world number 17 pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand being the frontrunners. The other two pairs in the trials are Ashwini Bhatt and Shikha Gautam, and Haritha Manazhiyil and Ashna Roy.
In mixed doubles, it will be a choice between Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto and the new pair of Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy for one spot.
Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships will be the third edition of the biennial event. The 2021 edition was scheduled to be held in Wuhan, China but was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India lost to Thailand 2-3 in the quarterfinals in 2017 and failed to qualify for knockout stage in 2019.