Indian shuttler Vaishnavi Jakka Reddy has withdrawn from junior World Championships levelling allegations of favouritism against the selection committee, a charge that the Badminton Association of India (BAI) rubbished on Tuesday.
The 15-year-old, who is ranked 12th in BWF’s junior world ranking, was one of the six players and was supposed to play in the girls’ singles event at the next month’s championship in Jakarta.
The team also includes senior team chief coach Pullela Gopichand’s daughter Gayatri Gopichand.
However, Vaishnavi’s grandmother Jakka Sowjanya Reddy wrote a letter to BAI, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and other higher authorities, saying that her granddaughter was put in the doubles squad by the selection panel.
Sowjanya Reddy alleged that there was favouritism towards Gayatri as she had been selected for the U-19 singles, where she is yet to get a ranking.
BAI, however, rejected all allegations and said a fair process was followed by the selection panel.
“Vaishnavi has been selected in the team and she will play for India. Let the coach decide where he wants her to play. I don’t understand this parental interference. We haven’t released any team which mentions separately about who all are playing singles and doubles,” a top BAI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
“Gayatri is India’s best prodigy at the moment. She has beaten all the girls who are under-19 in domestic tournaments. She has better head-to-head record against all the girls,” the official added.
“Vaishnavi may get an opportunity but to put pressure in this way is not right. Indian badminton team selection is being done honestly and judiciously. There are many factors which is taken in consideration like if she has finished in podium internationally, how she has fared in last three months, among others.”
In the letter, Soujanya Reddy wrote: “My granddaughter has been selected for doubles, paired with a singles player namely Malvika Bansod which is gross injustice,” the letter said.
“Putting two single players in doubles category also destroys two deserving doubles players of their opportunities,” it said.
A selection committee member said on condition of anonymity that Vaishnavi was named among the six women’s singles players alongwith Akarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chahlia, Purva Barve, Ira Sharma and Gayatri but rest of the decision lies with the coach.
“In U-19 girls, no one is clear cut no 1. Selectors had to name a squad, keeping in mind that everybody had some performance. It was a tough thing to select and you will always find some friction,” the official said.
“Vaishnavi has got some performances, she plays mainly international events and I have seen only her videos and she deserves to be in the team. Whether she gets to play singles that the coach will decide,” he added.
Interestingly, Pullela Gopichand is not part of the junior selection panel.