Badminton Association of India’s selection trials to pick the teams for the upcoming Thomas & Uber Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games kicks off at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on Friday but former world No 1 shuttler Saina Nehwal slammed the federation for how they have gone about the process.

The selection trials will be held in league-cum-round robin format to decide the positions in the squad for the big-ticket team events for the year. Singles players Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and PV Sindhu alongside men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been named as the automatic selection. The original announcement for the trial was made on 2 April.

“We want to give each and every player enough chances to prove their abilities and this is the best possible format that BAI and the selection committee together came up with,” said BAI’s General Secretary, Sanjay Mishra in a statement.

“The players ranked Top-15 in the world have been selected directly as announced earlier. Prannoy’s name has also been included as all the selectors were of the unanimous view that he should be considered for direct selection as he has performed consistently at top events in the recent time and has beaten some top players,” Mishra added.

The seedings in the trials draw will be decided on the basis of international rankings followed by national rankings while combined individual ranking points given by BWF will be considered in doubles.

Nehwal slams BAI

But Nehwal, who doesn’t make the automatic cut by virtue rankings and is also now confirmed to be not part of the trials, on Thursday took to Twitter to question the timing of the trials and slammed BAI for trying to ‘put her out’ of two major sporting events this year after they announced details around the selection trials to pick the teams for the upcoming Thomas & Uber Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

According to the media release issued by BAI, a total of 120 players will be participating in the five categories as the 6-day long selection trials will go on till April 20 with coaches, parents and media will be allowed to watch the matches from the gallery.

BAI will also select core group probable players for the 2024 Olympic Games as a group of 60 players will be selected through direct selection and trials.

On Tuesday, it was reported by PTI that two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Saina Nehwal had informed BAI about her decision to skip the trials for CWG, Asiad as well as the Thomas & Uber Cup. After the announcement of the details of the selection trials on Thursday, the former World No 1 shuttler slammed the association in a series of tweets tagging BAI and sports minister Anurag Thakur.

“Surprised to see all the articles stating that I don’t want to defend my CWG title and my Asiad medal. I’m just not participating in the trials because I just got back from 3 weeks of Europe events and according to the schedule there’s Asian Championships. In 2 weeks time, as a senior player to participate in back to back events nonstop is impossible and it’s risking injuries, such short notice is not possible. I’ve conveyed this to BAI but there has been no response from them. It seems like they’re happy to put me out of CWG and Asiad. I wish we had better understanding about how to manage a schedule and not announce events with 10 days notice. I’m world no.23 currently and I almost beat the world no.1 Akane in All England. One loss at India open and BAI tries to pull me down. Shocking.”

— @NSaina / Twitter

The 32-year-old also questioned the logic of having trials at this juncture.

Her comeback to the tour at the India Open came to an end in the second round when she was defeated by Malvika Bansod. After a few weeks off, she competed in three tournaments last month — the German Open, All England Open, and Swiss Open — but did not qualify beyond the second round in those tournaments while showing some good signs regarding her game. The match against world champion Akane Yamaguchi at All England was arguably one of her best in recent times. But as things stand, by not being part of the trials process, Nehwal is set to miss out on a spot in the events.

Trial process explained

Meanwhile, men’s doubles and women’s doubles will see competition of 13 and 11 pairs respectively.
In the men’s doubles, pairs will be divided into four groups—three consisting three pairs each while one with four pairs in the first stage, the women’s doubles will have four groups with three consisting three pairs each and one with two pairs.

Top-2 pairs will then progress into the second stage and will be further divided into two groups before they will fight for eight positions in each category. Top-2 teams will play for positions 1 to 4 while bottom two teams will fight for positions 5 to 8.

In the mixed doubles category, 14 pairs will be divided into four groups and Top-2 from each group will move into the second stage where two groups will be formed before final round-robin stage in which Top-2 pairs from each group will fight for first four positions while bottom two teams will play for positions 5 to 8.

For Commonwealth Games, both men’s and women’s teams will consist of two singles players while the remaining three positions will be filled by two doubles and one mixed doubles player. In the Thomas & Uber Cup and Asian Games squads, one singles and two doubles positions are available in the men’s category while in the women’s section three singles and the same number of doubles positions are up for grabs.

Top-8 men’s and women’s singles players, Top-6 men’s and women’s doubles pairs and 4 mixed doubles pairs will be selected to be part of the National Core Group along with players selected directly.

While the Thomas & Uber Cup are scheduled in Bangkok from May 8-15, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games will take place in Birmingham and Hangzhou respectively from July 28 and September 10.