Malaysian Open 2021: Saina and Srikant’s Olympic hopes almost dashed as India withdraws from ranking tournament due to travel ban

Malaysian Open 2021: Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth's Tokyo Olympic dream are all but over after the India decided to withdraw.
Malaysian Open 2021: Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth's Tokyo Olympic dream are all but over after the India decided to withdraw.

Malaysian Open 2021: Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth’s Tokyo Olympic dream are all but over after the Indian Badminton team decided to withdraw from the Malaysian Open due to a temporary travel ban on India. The tournament was scheduled from May 25 to 30 and was one of the last events that contribute to Olympic qualification which ends on June 15.

All top Indian singles and doubles players like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy were due to participate.

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The Sports Ministry, through the Ministry of External Affairs, approached the Malaysian authorities requesting to permit the Indian team to participate, but owing to the rise in Covid 19 cases in India, the Malaysian government has informed the Indian High Commission in Malaysia that the travel of the team cannot be presently permitted.

Tokyo Olympics: Who all have a chance to qualify?

As things stand, 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist PV Sindhu and 2019 World Championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth are most likely to head to Toky. The World No.10 doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty are also on their way to Tokyo.

Tokyo Olympics: How many qualifiers are left after Malaysian Open 2021?

With the India Open cancelled and India pulling out of the Malaysia Open, only the Singapore Open remains. Being the final tournament on the list of Olympic qualifiers, the Singapore Open Super 500 event will definitely be the most important one. A mad scramble for points is expected at this USD 320,00 event, with shuttlers vying to enter the top-16 in a last-minute effort.

India approaches Malaysian Government to allow Indian Badminton Team to travel for Malaysian Open

The Sports Ministry, through the Ministry of External Affairs, has approached the Malaysian Government requesting to grant permission to the Indian Badminton Team to travel to Malaysia to participate in the Malaysian Open scheduled from May 25 toMay 30. This is in light of a temporary travel ban that has been imposed by Malaysia on travellers from India, owing to the rising Covid 19 cases in India.

After the initial request made earlier this week, the Indian High Commission in Malaysia has received information from the Malaysian Government that the travel of the team may not be possible immediately. However, with 19 days left for the competition to begin, the possibility of travel cannot be ruled out completely.

The tournament is one of the last events that contribute to Olympic qualification which ends on June 15. All top Indian singles and doubles players like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy are due to participate in this.

Former World championship women’s doubles bronze medallist Ashwini said it was a huge blow to their hopes of making it to Tokyo Games. “We had to play in the last two qualifying events and pick some points to qualify for the Olympics. Now, it is almost the end of the road unless the BWF comes up with any changes in the qualification process after  three majors being cancelled (including the India Open in Delhi),” said Ashwini, who is aiming for her third straight Olympics appearance.

Ashwini’s doubles partner, N. Sikki Reddy, said their chances were blown away with the latest development. “Now, since the BWF world rankings will be considered for qualification and not that each country will be allotted one slot in each category, all the preparations which were really good under Mathias Boe (doubles coach) have gone down the drain,” said Sikki, who was hoping to play in her maiden Olympics.