Although Archana Kamath was made part of the team despite not fitting the current requirements, Indian table tennis selectors nominated a four-member women's squad for the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday, subject to permission from the Sports Authority of India, early on Wednesday.
Kamath is India's second highest-ranked player in the world, after Manika Batra (39) at 66, but she did not make the top four players according to the current selection criterion, which also considers domestic performance. The selection standards will be tweaked in the future by the Committee of Administrators (CoA). Manika, Archana, Sreeja Akula (rank 66), Reeth Rishya (100), and Diya Chitale (129) are the players picked. Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee, both experienced players, were overlooked.
S D Mudgil, CoA representative and chairwoman of the selection committee explained why SAI's approval was needed, "Under the existing selection criteria, one of the members (Archana) falls outside the top four.”
"The selection committee is convinced that the existing guidelines are "flawed" and has moved to make a necessary course correction, with new guidelines effective from October 1. However, in this transitionary phase, with an eye on a rich medal haul in Birmingham, we have included the said player in the team. She (Archana Kamath) is one half of the doubles pair (Manika the other) that is ranked No. 4 in the world, and which will be the top seeds at the Commonwealth Games. Therefore, the selection committee feels that this is a case worthy of consideration by SAI."
The men's team, which includes the legendary Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, and Harmeet Desai, is a simpler one. The backup will be Manush Shah. Mudgil further stated that all 15 camp participants (eight men and seven women) would compete in the World Table Tennis Tour tournaments in Zagreb (Croatia), Ototec (Slovakia), and Budapest (Hungary) in June-July as part of a continuous effort to improve Indian table tennis. In collaboration with a prominent European squad, the paddlers heading to the CWG will also get an acclimatization camp.
The Delhi High Court established a CoA chaired by Justice (retd) Gita Mittal in February this year to "clean up the TTFI." "The goal is to have at least 10 Indians in the top-100 in the world in both the senior and junior categories among men and women," she said, unveiling an optimistic five-year plan that includes the establishment of a national academy, with regional academic institutions in four other cities.
"For that, we need cooperation from all quarters, not criticism just for the sake of it." Justice Mittal insisted that the CoA would like to carry out its responsibilities and exit as quickly as possible. "We want to put structures in place and ensure a smooth transition. For us, all players are equally important. Also, the player is the most important stakeholder and it is in their best interest that we will function," she added.
The squads were chosen following a long week spent at the national camp at Bangalore's Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence.