NO BIRD FLEW: Indian Shuttlers sent home

Bird flu is the reason why the 30 best Indian shuttlers including women’s singles representative Saina Nehwal (world number 29) and her male counterpart Anup Sridhar (world number 27) are […]

ImageBird flu is the reason why the 30 best Indian shuttlers including women’s singles representative Saina Nehwal (world number 29) and her male counterpart Anup Sridhar (world number 27) are suddenly left with unexpected free time on their hands just 12 days before the Thomas and Uber Cup qualification rounds to be held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

By Aaron Wong, with Agencies. Pix : Badmintonphoto (archives)

India’s top shuttlers had gathered for a preparatory national camp starting today in Goa and Chandigarh only to be told by the (BAI) that it had been a cancelled owing to a shortage of shuttlecocks.

Bird flu incidents in China have led to an Indian government ban on the importing of premium goose feathers to manufacture shuttlecocks. Indian shuttles were dismissed as a substitute because of their inferior quality for top level sparring as well as insufficient quantities being available from the markets at such short notice.

“Not our fault”

The blame game has begun. The BAI rely on the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to either supply stocks of shuttles or approve the BAI to source them first.

“We told (SAI) that we can import the shuttles at our own cost,” V.K. Verma, the chairman of the BAI said, “and they can reimburse us later. But they told us we will also need the clearance. The proposal has been lying with them for the last 6 months,” VK Verma was quoted as saying by NDTV.com
The Sports Ministry are, in turn, at the mercy of the Union Agriculture Ministry’s import restrictions from China, too. Private enterprise efforts fared no better.

Image“We haven’t been able to import shuttles for four months,” said Vikram Dhar, the country manager for Yonex Sunrise India, who are the local manufacturers of international standard shuttles. “We are even willing to give an undertaking that the feathers are not affected by the virus but to no effect,” he said in the local Hindustan Times.

Another option was to bring in chemically-treated shuttles that had passed bird flu inspections by Hong Kong authorities, but the ban extended to these too.

The shuttle predicament has already affected the readiness of India’s shuttlers for the . It also threatens plans for the Indian Open badminton tournament to be played in April, in the city of Hyderabad.

Disapointed yet Optimistic

Chief national coach and former All England champion Pullela Gopichand (photo) is optimistic about new dates for the national camp, which also serves as practice towards the biggest tournament of all, the Olympics.

Gopichand knows it has been extremely hard in the last year to forge solidarity amongst national shuttlers and this episode comes at a bad time before India gets ready to fight under the team banner.

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @ badzine.net