Selection mess surrounding India’s table tennis squad for 2022 Commonwealth Games – Reuters

The Indian Table Tennis Federation is back in the news and again for all the wrong reasons.

Representative image of table tennis

The Indian Table Tennis Federation is back in the news and again for all the wrong reasons. Earlier, in February this year, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) was suspended by the Delhi High Court for its ‘sorry state of affairs’.

Subsequently, a Committee of Trustees (CoA) was formed under the leadership of retired judge Gita Mittal to look after the management of the organization. The committee also includes former decathlete SD Mudgil and lawyer Chetan Mittal.

The recent controversy was sparked by the women’s table tennis team chosen for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Paddler Archana Kamath was included in the four-member women’s team despite not meeting the existing criteria. Kamath’s selection led to protests from the players who were left out including Diya Chitale who filed a writ petition to Delhi HC to maintain the CWG team selection.

We examine the whole controversy in detail.

What created the controversy?

On June 1, the CWG teams were selected after a week-long national camp at the Padukone-Dravid Center for Sports Excellence in Bengaluru. The men’s team consists of Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai. Manush Shah was chosen as the replacement. The selectors chose Manika Batra, Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akula, Reeth Rishya for the women’s team with Diya Chitale as reserve. And it was after that that all hell broke loose.

Sutirtha Mukherjee, a member of the 2018 CWG Gold Medal Team, Swastika Ghosh and Ayhika Mukherjee were left out while Manika and Archana joined the team despite not meeting the eligibility criteria. While Manika is India’s highest-ranked player at 39, it was Kamath’s selection that sparked the controversy.

The current selection policy gives a weighting of 50% to national performances, 30% to international performances and 20% to the discretion of the selectors. In the case of national performances, points are awarded to the top 10 national players; 50 points are awarded to the highest ranked player and five to the 10th ranked paddler. In the case of international performances, 30 points are awarded to the highest ranked player and three to the 10th. The remaining 20 points are left to the discretion of the selection committee. However, generally all paddlers receive these 20 points. A paddler must score 51 points or more to be selected to the team.

According to the above criteria, Manika and Kamath, due to their poor national ranking, could not have been selected ahead of India’s No. 3 Chitale and No. 4 Swastika.

Why was Kamath selected?

Kamath pulled out to partner Manika in the women’s doubles. The duo are currently ranked No. 4 in the world in women’s doubles.

How did the players react?

Swastika took to Twitter after the team’s announcement and demanded justice.

“I am in rank 4 of senior India and according to the existing criteria of the selection process, I am No. 4 but despite this, I am dropped from the Indian women’s squad for the Commonwealth Games squad. S ‘please do me justice,’ Ghosh tweeted while also tagging PMOIndia and the union’s Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.

Chitale filed a writ petition at Delhi HC after being overlooked for the national table tennis team. Chitale’s petition requested a reprieve from selection and his induction into the team under the current selection criteria which would have been circumvented by the selection committee to include Kamath as Batra’s doubles partner. He also wanted the court to revoke the team’s ratification by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Additionally, as Kamath does not play doubles at the senior nationals, Chitale, through his petition, accused the CoA of “lack of transparency” and allowing a case of “conflict of interest”.

“…the selection of Ms. Archana Kamath by Respondent No. 1 also suffers from unfairness and lack of transparency. This is due to the conflict of interest on the part of one of the members of the selection committee for the juniors, namely Mr. Bona Thomas John is the personal trainer of Mrs. Archana Kamath and is therefore capable of unfairly biasing the selection committee’s choices in favor of Mrs. Kamath, the petition reads.

It was also reported that Swastika and Ayhika wrote a letter to the court-appointed CoA for failing to meet the selection criteria.

Manush of the men’s team alleged a similar oversight in the selection.

“Dear Mr @PMOIndia @ianuragthakur, I am a Manush Shah TT player from Gujarat, India, ranked 4, although I am in Top 3 according to point system of selection criteria, I was not selected for CWG 2022. Please help me @sanghaviharsh @AmitShah,” he tweeted.

What is the reaction of CoA?

The CoA has already declared the current selection criteria to be flawed and has established a new policy which will give a 40% weighting to each international and domestic performance with 20% for selectors. However, the new policy will not be effective until October.

After the team was selected, Mudgil, CoA representative and selection committee chair, said, “According to the existing selection criteria, one of the members (Archana) is not among the top four. The selection committee is convinced that the existing guidelines are “imperfect” and has taken steps to make the necessary course corrections, with new guidelines taking effect from October 1.”

“However, in this transition phase, in view of a rich medal haul in Birmingham, we have included the said player in the squad. She (Archana Kamath) is one half of the doubles pair (Manika the other) who is ranked No. 4 in the world and who will be the top seeds of the Commonwealth Games.”

With contributions from agencies

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