If anyone has been flying up and high on the global badminton radar from India since late 2021, it is HS Prannoy, who is enjoying a red-hot form in his career currently. At 29, having overcome injuries galore and sponsorship woes, HS Prannoy has emerged once again as the trusted bet for India at the BWF tournaments where he has been nonchalantly creating Top 10 upsets, reaching semi-finals, finishing as runners-up and giving everybody a run for their money.
Yet even though HS Prannoy is currently peaking with less than two weeks to go for the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, he has not been included in the Indian badminton squad for the Games.
Strange, you think? Heartbreaking, as well, given that Prannoy is the most consistent player currently, while both Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth continue to face a drop in form, but are headed for CWG?
But that is just the case given the selection criteria for teams at the CWG which allows for only 10 players per nation to be sent for badminton to the Games. Moreover, the sanction is for only two players/two pairs to be sent per nation in every individual category (WS, MS, MD, WD, XD) and not more than that. Additionally, this squad will also have to take part in the Mixed Team competition too, making the choice very limited.
Given that scenario and since HS Prannoy is the third-highest ranked among the Indian men in singles in the BWF rankings, a spot for him on the squad was not available as laid down by the selection criteria of the Badminton Association of India (BAI) when they conducted the trials earlier in April this year.
In the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, HS Prannoy, then World No. 1 1, was a part of the squad and won gold in the mixed team event but lost the singles in the bronze medal clash to England’s Rajiv Ouseph.
Why is HS Prannoy not playing the CWG 2022?
HS Prannoy with the Thomas Cup gold medal and trophy (Source: Reuters)
For the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, India is sending a 10-member badminton squad with World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen (World No. 10), and World Championships silver medallist Kidambi Srikanth (World No. 11) leading the pack on the men’s side, followed by the CWG 2018 silver medallists and World No. 8 men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. All four gained direct entry by virtue of their rankings within the BWF Top 15.
HS Prannoy, who was ranked at World No. 23 during the trials was given an exception by the BAI and included in the squad for the Thomas Cup and Asian Games instead after the BAI adjudged Prannoy’s form as something they can capitalise on. No wonder, that decision paid off as Prannoy played the most crucial role for Team India in the Thomas Cup where he was the third singles player to go out and every time he did, he delivered – showing immense grit and passion, even at 29.
Among the women, it is 2-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu (World No. 7) who gained direct entry. Aakarshi Kashyap (World No. 57) topped the BAI trials and made it to the CWG 2022 squad.
In the women’s doubles, it was Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly who had trumped to win the spot while in the mixed doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and B. Sumeeth Reddy claimed the last two spots available on the team to make the squad for the upcoming Games.
However, HS Prannoy will be a part of the postponed Asian Games team because there the provision for more members is available courtesy of men’s team and women’s team events being played.