In the continued drama surrounding the table tennis team selection for the Commonwealth Games, a fourth player has approached court after being left out of the squad. This time it is Archana Kamath, the paddler originally part of the squad but later left out, who has approached the Karnataka High Court.
The Court has ordered a stay on the selection list and asked all parties to appear before it on June 22.
“By interim direction, it is ordered that the selection list shall not be sent till the next day of hearing,” read the court’s order.
Kamath, who turned 22 on Friday, was initially named in the four-member women’s squad, but was dropped later on in the aftermath of another paddler Diya Chitale approaching the Delhi High Court after being left out. The Committee of Administrators that handle the affairs of the Table Tennis Federation of India replaced Kamath with Chitale, even before the latter’s case was heard at the court.
The CoA also added Swastika Ghosh as a reserve player, but she too filed a writ petition at the Delhi High Court. In the men’s category, Manush Shah had also gone to court after being left out of the squad.
The Delhi High Court meanwhile asked the TTFI to file an affidavit explaining the selection process and show that it was used accurately when naming the team, as reported by ANI.
The trouble stems from a skewed selection policy that had been drafted years ago by the TTFI, giving 50% weightage to domestic performances, 30% to international achievements, and leaving 20% for selectors’ discretion. The CoA, in a detailed report, agreed that the policy was flawed and that team selections made in the past were arbitrary despite the existence of the policy.
India’s skewed Commonwealth Games selection policy and a lose-lose situation
But the CoA decided to stick to the policy this time, and hence removed Kamath – who is ranked 37 domestically – from the team.
The Bangalore resident is, however, the second highest ranked women’s singles player internationally, placed at No 66 in the world, behind only World No 39 Manika Batra. She and Batra are also the World No 4 women’s doubles pairing, and had won a World Table Tennis title in Slovenia and reached the World Championships quarterfinals.
Additionally, Kamath is also a core member of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, and had been included in the program in January.
Based on the selection policy though, since she is ranked low domestically, there was no room for her in the squad despite the Commonwealth Games being an international event which uses international rankings for seedings. Domestic rankings do not come into the picture, but they are now being used – until the CoA’s new proposed policy comes into effect in October – as the most important criteria.
The women’s team, as it stands, consists of Manika Batra (ranked 39 internationally and 33 domestically), Sreeja Akula (70 internationally, No 1 domestically), Reeth Rishya (100 and 2), and Diya Chitale (129 and 3). Ghosh meanwhile is ranked 174 based on the International Table Tennis Federation’s rankings, and fourth in India.
Theoretically, Batra – who is a Khel Ratna, and was the hero of the team that won gold in the team and singles event at the previous edition in Gold Coast – is an exception to the policy, and rightfully so, but there is a scenario where she could be the one who may have to be removed from the team to make way for higher ranked domestic players even if it makes little sense.
Similarly in the men’s team, Shah is ranked 98 in the world (the India No 3 abroad), ranked fourth domestically, but is a reserve player in the team.
Since the CoA first named the squads on June 1, four players overall have gone to court. Meanwhile the Birmingham Games is barely a month away.