The table tennis team for the Commonwealth Games was chosen precisely on anticipated lines. The "flawed" approach used by the selectors of the indefinitely suspended TTFI continues under the Court-appointed Committee of Administrators’ selection committee.
For long, the TTFI has justified its deviation from the laid-down selection procedures, underlining the “medal-winning prospects” at world, continental championships and multidiscipline games.
Sadly, the TT fraternity feels hugely let down by the way decathlete S. D. Mudgil-headed selection committee has presented the team, leaving no doubt that little has changed except the names of the selectors.
One of the statements made to the media on Tuesday, by Mudgil in Bengaluru, was, “Under the existing selection criteria, one of the members (Archana Kamath) fall outside the top four. The selection committee is convinced that the existing guidelines are flawed.”
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However, a closer look at the existing selection criteria reveals a different and a bigger picture.
For those in the top-10 of National ranking, points are allocated as 50 for the top-ranked player, and five to the 10th-placed. For the first 10 players in the world ranking list, it is 30 points to the top-ranked player and three to the 10th. Another 20 points are left to the discretion of the Chief National coach and selection committee.
Until recently, as a precedence, all contenders were given these 20 points.
As things appear under the existing criteria, Sreeja Akula (24+50 = 74), Reeth Rishya (21+45 = 66) and Diya Chitale (12+40 = 52) had virtually selected themselves for the four-player team for the Commonwealth Games. Swastika Ghosh (6+35 = 41) needed only 10 points from the selectors’ share to reach an unsurpassable tally of 51.
In such a scenario, Ayhika Mukherjee (15+15+20 = 50), Manika Batra (30+0+20 + 50) and Archana Kamath (27+0+20 = 47) could not have overtaken Swastika despite getting all 20 points from the selection committee.
However, while announcing the CWG team, the selectors chose to highlight only Archana’s case as being “outside the selection criteria". The truth is, Manika and Archana would have missed the bus if Diya was not ignored and Swastika was given half the points awarded to the first two named.
Archana has been mainly chosen to play doubles with Manika in keeping with their fourth rank in the world rankings. But the two chose not to play the doubles in the National championship where Sreeja, Diya and Swastika finished as medallists.
If Diya and Swastika, in varying degrees, are paying the price for the selectors’ vision of Manika and Archana justifying their top billing in the doubles, the selectors have conveniently placed the issue on the doorsteps of an unsuspecting Sports Authority of India, without revealing the whole truth.
In any case, Diya’s omission from the team is as shocking as Manush Shah’s from the men’s squad.
As per the existing selection criteria, National bronze-medallist Manush (24+35 = 59) is second behind Sharath Kamal (77) without the maximum of 20 points of the selectors' share.
Sanil Shetty (55), Harmeet Desai (52), Manav Thakkar (48) and G. Sathiyan (45) follow in that order.
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Sathiyan could get all 20 points from the selectors to make the cut provided at least two among those ahead of him got substantially less.
But Manush, even without the selectors’ 20 points, simply walks into the squad. Sanil, a left-hander like Manush, was preferred without the selectors giving any reason to leave out the youngster.
In fact, during the weeklong camp aimed at team selection in Bengaluru, Manush was not offered any opportunity to play doubles, the player claimed.
As a result, going purely by the existing system, not just Archana, but Manika and Sathiyan would sit out of the team. Now those unfairly left out to accommodate these “medal prospects” have limited options to be heard in their quest for justice.