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India Open in doubt; players scrap Swiss Open plans

Parupalli Kashyap said it is difficult to play under such mental stress and uncertainty. Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Delhi government's decision on Friday to ban all sports activities and gatherings of more than 200 people in the state as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic has put the conduct of the India Open in doubt. Already scheduled to be a closed-door affair, the Super 500 event is supposed to get underway in the state capital on March 24.

"Right now, unless the BWF calls off the event, we have to go ahead with preparations," a BAI senior official said. "We were expecting them to take a call on all tournaments by now but that hasn't happened yet. On our part, we have forwarded the names of the foreign players expected to travel to the country for the tournament to the sports, health and external affairs ministries today. We will wait to hear from them."

Meanwhile, amid the chaos and confusion that surrounds them, Indian players in Birmingham -- barring Sindhu, who is still alive in the All England draw -- have decided to skip the Swiss Open next week, cut their travel short and return to the country this weekend. Among them are Parupalli Kashyap, Saina Nehwal, Sai Praneeth, Lakshya Sen, Pranaav Jerry Chopra, Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa. "It's a hard decision to let go of points and a chance at qualification like this," Kashyap told ESPN. "But it's difficult to play under such mental stress and uncertainty."

The Badminton World Federation's inflexible attitude in going ahead with business as usual in the midst of a global crisis borders on the absurd. A cursory look at the BWF website's index page on COVID-19 updates shows that on top in its list of FAQs is the question of players and officials shaking hands. This when countries are moving into declaring travel bans and partial or complete lockdowns. Most major sports bodies have taken a call regarding their respective events -- the English Premier League season being suspended following an emergency FA meeting and the BCCI deferring the IPL until April 15 being among the most prominent decisions taken on Friday.

The Singapore Badminton Association has cancelled the Singapore Open, another Super 500 event, scheduled to run from April 7, keeping in mind the travel restrictions in place globally. But the BWF is yet to scrap next week's Swiss Open. The world badminton body has copped a lot of flak from some of the top players -- including Jan O Jorgensen, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Kashyap -- over its apathy and indecision.

"I honestly don't get it," Vittinghus said in a social media post. "We should not be travelling the world playing badminton. With some tournaments being played while others are being cancelled, and the Olympic qualifying year still ongoing, players are left with choices between risking not only their own health, but also the health of the ones around them... We should not be put in this position."