‘This Can Happen Only in India’: HS Prannoy Criticises Arjuna Snub
HS Prannoy hits out at the badminton federation for not nominating him for the Arjuna Award, two years in a row
Outspoken Indian badminton player HS Prannoy has once again spoken out against the unfairness of the nomination process for the Arjuna awards, after his name was left out for a second straight year.
Speaking with The Quint, Prannoy said the reason for the snub isn't his performance on the badminton court but his strong words against the system on a handful of occasions in the last year.
“When you say the truth, then a lot of people have a problem,” says the 27-year-old as he discusses his omission from the nominee list that was sent by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to the Sports Ministry.
On Tuesday, the BAI recommended the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty along with singles player Sameer Verma for the national sports award. According to Prannoy, his achievements outrank Verma’s as the 25-year-old “hasn't won any major medals” that he has.
“I felt I could have been recommended but they have sent Sameer’s name. I felt I’m a big prospect in that list but they denied by name and put Sameer’s name. Sameer didn’t play any major events in the last 4 years and didn’t have any of the major medals that I have,” Prannoy told The Quint.
One of the products of the Gopichand Academy, Prannoy has won a mixed team gold at the 2018 CWG in Gold Coast and a men's singles bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Championships in Wuhan.
Sameer, on his part, has won three titles and even climbed to number 11 in the world in 2018. A good showing that season had earned him a ticket to the year-end BWF World Tour Finals where he reached the semi-finals.
According to the points system for the Arjuna Awards, Prannoy’s Commonwealth Games medal does put him in a more favourable spot to be BAI’s nominee, but he feels the process itself is flawed as it allows “anybody who is sitting in the association to tamper your chances”.
“You shouldn’t have to apply for such awards. It should be given according to your performance. It shouldn't be that you apply and you ask your association to send your name. I feel anybody who is sitting in the association can tamper your chances to get something like this,” Prannoy said.
“In our country only these kind of things can happen, where anybody can tamper with your performance and your name can be out of the list, at the last moment. All these things can happen only in our country,” he added.
Prannoy’s anger at the system however goes beyond just this omission. The badminton player has been among just a handful of Indians who have spoken out against the Badminton World Federation (BWF) in the last few months.
With growing coronavirus cases in England and Europe in March, badminton’s parent body had refused to cancel the All England Championship that ran from 11 to 15 March, forcing players to take the risk of travelling all the way to play the tournament, or else concede valuable Olympics qualification points.
Prannoy had chosen to pull out.
He later criticised the BWF officials for “making stupid decisions” and also hit out saying they were “least bothered about players’ health... only worried about money”.
Earlier this month as well, when the BWF announced the calendar for the restart of the badminton tour, Prannoy had raised his voice against the packed scheduling that featured 22 tournaments in 5 months.
And now, his omission from the awards’ list has him questioning if it wasn't only his performance on the badminton court that was considered.
“It has always been an issue with me, seeing how I’m the only one who is outspoken in the entire fraternity. That, kind of comes back to me like this. When you say the truth, then a lot of them have a problem.”
“Players don’t have any contact with the association. That is the biggest problem. Players have zero contact with the association. In such a country where the sport is so popular these days, we need to have a system in place. We spend our entire careers working hard to train and play and get all these achievements. But now when we have all these achievements, still people are not trying to support your or encourage you. They’re always trying to let you down by doing all this.”
Let down by his Federation two years in a row, Prannoy suggested it may, after all, not be the entire sports body just individuals in high places who are coming between him and the Arjuna.
“There might be people who don’t want me to get the award, that’s why two years in a row my name is not there. For some people, it may be a personal thing. I’m not really sure who is having so much personal hatred against me,” he says as he expresses a sense of helplessness in making a claim for an award he feels he rightly deserves.
“There is no one I can talk to, at a higher level, at Ministry level. There is no one I can talk to. All this really matters when you want an award. It’s not just performance that you have put in over the years. I feel if you want to get any award in this country, you need a lot of pull. If you are very outspoken, if you’re like me, then you have zero changes to get something like this,” he says signing off.
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