The court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) in the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) seems to be in the hot seat, especially over the selection of the 2022 Commonwealth Games men and women teams last week. Players have even approached the court over non-selection. Three players, who according to the selection criteria should have made it to the team, were dropped.
What seemed controversial will only get complicated with the letter issued by the Sports Authority of India on TTFI's selection. In a letter dated June 6, 2022 to the CoA of the TTFI, the SAI has said that the selection process is the matter of the National Sports Federations. This was in reply to a letter from the CoA dated May 31, "with respect to the selection of the Indian national table tennis team for the CWG, 2022 to SAI requesting concurrence on the attached selection committee minutes of the meeting."
However, SAI replied, "It is hereby informed that as per letter no F.No...dated 18th January 2018 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, it has been stated that "selection of sportspersons for participation in major international events shall be the responsibility of NSF concerned, and government and Sports Authority of India will not have direct involvement in the selection process, except to ensure that it is fair and transparent."
This means that SAI will not interfere in NSFs' selection of athletes for international meets. So what happens when NSFs are suspended by the ministry? Especially now when the Delhi High Court has said all NSFs not following the sports code should be served notices of suspension?
As some sports administrators have pointed out, will the SAI get involved as they have done in sports, which are de-recognised or suspended by the ministry? For example, as recently as last month, the judo team was selected by SAI. Even taekwondo. Not to mention the archery team when the federation was suspended for almost eight years.
This letter also shows either SAI thinks selection is "fair" or as an official pointed out SAI did not want to get into another mess or flip-flop. There have been occasions when SAI interfered under the pretext of not "fair and transparent" selections. Here the case could be different. This selection process has been dragged to court.
The three-member committee led by former judge Gita Mittal, advocate Chetan Mittal and decathlete SD Mudgil have come under severe criticism too. That the selection panel was headed by decathlete Mittal raised a few eyebrows. The men's team had A Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Sanil Shetty and Harmeet Desai with Manush Shah as stand-by, while the women's team had Manika Batra, Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akula, Reeth Rishya with Diya Chitale as a reserve. According to the selection criteria, Archana should not have been selected because she did not have enough points. Interestingly, even the CoA had admitted it and said it needed the concurrence of SAI.
Gujarat's Manush had written to the SAI alleging non-transparency in the selection process and that he was not allowed to play doubles or mixed doubles during the camp in Bengaluru. Not just that, two women — Diya and Swastika Ghosh — too cried foul with the former even filing a petition in court.
Now that the ball has been quietly lobbed back to the CoA's court, it needs to be seen how they react.