Insisting that the social stigma attached to those testing positive for Covid-19 needs to stop, India doubles shuttler Chirag Shetty said this was the time to stand solidly behind fellow national camper Sikki Reddy and team physio Kiran Challangundla.
After the two tested positive in tests done on Tuesday, 11 at the camp that started in Hyderabad on August 7, including the duo, underwent another RT-PCR test on Friday, results of which are expected on August 16. The camp has been suspended for a week for sanitisation.
“This is the time when us badminton players need to stick together because social stigma attached to someone in the team testing positive is really a bad thing. It is unfortunate that Sikki tested positive, but we can’t blame one person for the camp to be temporarily stopped or badger them about how they contracted it. These two are our team and we will stand by them,” Shetty said from Mumbai. Apart from the contact tracing, Shetty reckoned it was futile to speculate on how the virus was contracted, as was the immediate query he heard multiple times since the news came out of the twin positives.
India’s top doubles pairing Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy had decided to wait for a fortnight before joining others at the camp at Gopichand Academy. Shetty stressed that they will wait for another week and head to Hyderabad should the remaining tests return negative.
“In Mumbai, I’ve known of people who never left the house whole day but still tested positive. So, no one knows how this virus gets contracted. Sikki had taken all precautions and was even training properly, so she had no way of knowing. Kiran had been wearing a mask and a face shield and taken all precautions at the academy too. This is not the time for blame games. We look at it scientifically and deal with the situation at hand. But we need to start training for the Thomas Uber Cup,” he said.
“It was good I waited because now everyone heads into quarantine till test results come. But we’ll start after a week once they get back,” he said.
India’s international shuttlers had asked for resumption of a national camp because the year’s most important event – the Thomas Uber Cup – is still on schedule for mid-October with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announcing the draws recently.
“Other teams like Indonesia, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei have been training for two months now with social-distancing norms and hand sanitising. The situation was really bad in India, so we waited for the Telangana government to give permission after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sanctions. But now there are indications that TUC will happen. So, Satwik and me need to start playing together,” Shetty stressed. “We’ll need a month of training together to catch up. No training at all also takes a toll on the body.”
Shetty says once he’s at the academy, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is pretty clear-cut for the playing area where only support staff is permitted. “It’s only coaches and sparrers. And SOP also says ‘go to the physio only if it’s absolutely essential’. I think the guidelines are decent and if we follow them precisely, it should be ok,” he said.
Shetty reckons the TUC is on track to take place. “I think, at the moment, we should go on assuming it’s happening. There’s no quarantine in Denmark so it’s just a test and you enter. But we’ll know accurately only a month in advance, so till then we need to prepare,” he said. “Especially for us, we have no choice but to train together.”
Shetty says his family is concerned and would like clarity on whether travelling to Hyderabad is worth it if the TUC takes place. But Indians are left with little choice given other countries have hit training courts a while ago. “If we have to think of winning, we must train. Malaysians, Indonesians have been in full practice for two months now. The Malaysians even held tournaments amongst themselves. The Danes had their club matches. So we will be losing our competitive edge if we don’t train,” he said.
Shetty ruled out training abroad as a group, saying it wasn’t feasible cost-wise and no facility outside India would be willing to take on board an entire group of Indians in the present scenario. “Maybe individuals like those who stayed back in Europe before All England. But I think Hyderabad is our best bet to make things work,” he said.
Asked if he would want additional precautions and protocols for those staying at home (European football clubs mandated their players didn’t meet anyone outside family and even had strict laundry rules), Chirag said he was undeterred by the pair of positive test results.
“This is how it’s going to be. As long as everyone is taking precautions and not venturing out, we can’t put restrictions on people. As it is, no one’s heading out and once training starts, people are too tired to step out anyway. No energy. But even if you see senior camps in China, people are traveling to national centres from their homes only. We just have to tide over these initial hiccups. And wish Kiran sir and Sikki a quick recovery,” he said.