The cruel invisible hand of fate is fiddling with every individual’s destiny in the country during this unrelenting second wave of the pandemic. Like with every other discipline, the world of sport is also not being spared. Deaths of Olympic champions, players testing positive and Games qualifiers getting postponed or cancelled are a few instances that reflect the predicament of life currently. The most heartbreaking news was the demise of 1980 Olympic gold medallist MK Kaushik and teammate Ravinder Pal Singh (both men's hockey). This came just days after the death of veteran sports administrator RK Sacheti.
On the playing arena, the postponement of the Malaysia Open, scheduled from May 25 to 30, is a big blow to the chances of more Indian shuttlers qualifying for the Olympics, especially 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth. Both are off the qualifying bracket as of now and needed this event and the India Open to get back into it. With both events offering a lot of points, a decent run could have propelled them inside the qualifying berths. Complicating matters is the uncertainty of the Singapore Open; with the country shutting its doors to Indians because of the second wave, chances are Srikanth and Saina may not even get to go there. Both need to be ranked above 16 to qualify as the second shuttler from the country. While Srikanth is ranked 18, Saina is 22nd in the 'Race to Tokyo' list. This essentially means that even if they win the title in Singapore - an event they aren’t even sure of playing in the first place - they may still not make it. It's why the Badminton Association of India (BAI) wrote to the World Badminton Federation (BWF), asking it to tweak the qualifying rules.
While one can argue that the two have not had a good couple of years and that’s why they are out of the reckoning - B Sai Praneeth and PV Sindhu virtually sealed qualifying spots even before the pandemic-enforced break - it's important to note that Saina and Srikanth will have been banking on these events. It sounds a little unfair to cancel events without providing alternatives for players on the cusp of qualification. With so much uncertainty, it would be prudent for the BWF to tweak their qualifying norms or extend the dates beyond June 13.