Former decathlete, shuttler to pick table tennis team for CWG

Bizarrely, retired sportspersons from other disciplines have been made part of the new selection committee that meets to choose the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games.

Table Tennis bat

REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE: Much like in the BCCI, the CoA’s selection committee comprises former players, most of them almost forgotten. For years, these members have, admittedly, not kept in touch with or followed current players enough to select the National team.   -  Getty Images

India’s table tennis team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be picked on Monday by a selection committee meeting that will be headed by a former decathlete and observed by a former badminton player.

If it appears contrary to reason/common sense or utterly absurd, indeed it is.

Delhi-based former decathlete Surinder Dev Mudgil is the chairman and ex-shuttler Anup Narang, the observer of the Table Tennis Federation of India’s new selection committee that meets to choose the Indian team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games on Monday. Mudgil is also one of the three members of the Delhi High Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) -- the others are Chief Justice (retd.) Geeta Mittal and advocate Chetan Mittal--that took over charge from the suspended office-bearers of the TTFI on February 18. In fact, Mudgil is also the Chairman of the junior selection committee.

For perspective the equivalent of Monday’s meeting would be a decathlete chairing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) selection meeting. Now, imagine a former secretary of the Badminton Association of India attending this meeting as an Observer.

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Interestingly, Narang was a replacement for the three-time National champion Manjit Dua, who felt humiliated when CoA offered him the post of an “Observer” in the new selection committee. The Arjuna Awardee quit as a selector and Chief National coach.

Much like in the BCCI, the CoA’s selection committee comprises former players, most of them almost forgotten. For years, these members have, admittedly, not kept in touch with or followed current players enough to select the National team.

For the record, former players S. Ramaswamy, N. R. Indu, Rajat Kathuria and Archana Viswanath came into the committee that previously included Arjuna Awardees Manjit Dua, Mantu Ghosh and Dronacharya Awardee Sandeep Gupta.

Conflict of interest

During the hearing of the case filed against the TTFI by the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manika Batra, the Court took a serious view of the coach, in this case Soumyadeep Roy, running a private academy and accompanying the National team. Further, when the Court learnt that Roy’s trainee Sutirtha Mukherjee was part of the same team, it was convinced that there was a clear case of ‘conflict of interest.’

On February 11, 2022, the Court made a telling observation in its judgement. “A person appointed as the National coach by such a federation cannot and ought not to be permitted to simultaneously run his personal academy. A conflict of this nature has to be avoided. Our sportspersons surely deserve better.”

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In the light of this clear-cut directive, the CoA’s decision to name noted coach S. Raman as coach/manager of the Indian teams to Commonwealth Games has come under serious scrutiny. Raman runs the Chennai-based Raman TT High Performance Centre where he coaches G. Sathiyan, a consistent member of the Indian team for many years now.

As a result, the CoA’s decision appears in direct conflict with the above observation of the Court.

Raman’s case is not an aberration. In 100 days after taking over, the CoA has sent several coaches with players for various age-group events and most of these accompanying coaches either own Academies, or offer private coaching. For instance, in the recent past, R. Rajesh, Anshul Garg, A. Radhika are among those who, in spite of owning Academies, have accompanied selected Indian players for overseas age-group competitions.

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