The Olympic Games must be around the corner because the season of selection controversies has begun in India.
It’s not uncommon that some of the greatest names in Olympics history have had to get to the Games after a trial. As pointed out on social media already, even Michael Phelps had to come through trials to seal his spot for the quadrennial event in the past.
And yet, here we are, with Mary Kom finding herself in the squad for the upcoming Boxing World Championships without trials as the selectors believed she did not have to prove her mettle, given her recent form.
Six-time world champion Mary Kom (51kg) and World Championships bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) had already confirmed their place in the squad due to their consistent performances in the last few months, the federation confirmed on Thursday.
Two sides of the debate
There is no doubt that Mary Kom (who created a new record with her latest gold medal in the Championships hosted in India) is the best India have ever sent to the world stage. Her pedigree is unquestionable and her form is good. Unlike the Sushil Kumar controversy preceding 2016 Olympics, Mary Kom has been boxing at the highest level consistently. And Nikhat Zareen, who has challenged the decision, still has age on her side as far as competing at the highest level is concerned.
But given that, Zareen is a young and upcoming boxer who has turned heads at the international level already. Even if she is not at the level to win the big tournaments, at 22, she is no spring chicken.
“[Mary Kom] beat Nikhat in the India Open [semi-finals] and is consistently better than others in the national camp as well. Nikhat is also a brilliant boxer and she will have her chances in the time to come. But right now, it’s a call based purely on performance and experience,” a selector had said on the issue.
She was reportedly told that it was to protect her at a young age. But why not let her learn her lessons now; why not let her take another crack at Mary; why not let her lose?
Unlike cricket, say, where a debate over a youngster replacing a veteran is not straightforward because there are plenty of intangibles (like in the case of MS Dhoni vs Rishabh Pant), boxing is an individual sport. Like wrestling, where the best of the best were made to prove their dominance, the pugilists could have also been made to take the ring without exception.