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'Brutal, ridiculous': Praneeth, Kashyap and Co. question BWF's revised tournament schedule

B Sai Praneeth, India's top-ranked men's singles player, described the BWF's proposed tournament schedule as 'brutal'. Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Badminton World Federation's (BWF) plans for resumption of the tour in August, with 22 tournaments stuffed into five months -- starting with the Hyderabad Open from August 11-16 -- have been met with surprise and outrage from unsuspecting players and coaches.

Announcing its revised calendar for the remainder of the year on Friday, the BWF has included eight rescheduled events in the window, most notably a December 8-13 slot for the India Open Super 500. The World Tour will resume with the Taipei Open Super 300 from September 1-6 and the year-ending BWF Tour Finals have been pushed back by a week to December 1-6. The All England Open, which concluded on March 22, was the last tournament to be played on the circuit, following which all events had been suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Syed Modi Super 300 event in Lucknow and the Indonesia Open, Super 1000 tournament, have been scheduled for the same week (Sep 17-22), which has caused players to hit back at the decision since they will be forced to choose between a home event and a big-ticket one.

Training at the Pulella Gopichand Academy, which serves as the national camp for India's top players, remains suspended since the Telangana state government's policy mandates that all sports centres remain closed until May 31. Even if training resumes in a couple of weeks, players are apprehensive of being match-fit to play such an intense haul of tournaments so soon. "We haven't even resumed training. Once we do so, it will take most of us at least two months to regain tournament fitness," said world No. 13 B Sai Praneeth, India's top-ranked men's singles player. "The number of tournaments fitted into such a short time frame is brutal. Our bodies won't be ready for so many back-to-back tournaments so soon. Also, flying around the world in the current scenario doesn't seem like a great idea."

Earlier this month, Gopichand had suggested that the BWF consider revising the tournament structure and format, and conduct more events at a single venue to reduce extensive travel, which has gone unheeded.

"It's ridiculous," said Parupalli Kashyap, ranked 24th in the world. "How can you have 22 tournaments in five months?"

Throwing in a caveat over its 'condensed calendar' offering a 'framework', BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said in the announcement, "At this point in time, it is difficult to predict when international movement and entry restrictions will be lifted by individual countries and territories, but we will not resume competition unless it is absolutely clear that is safe to do so."

HS Prannoy, currently in his home town Trivandrum, says he has no plans to travel to the national camp in Hyderabad soon even if training resumes. He also rules out travelling abroad for tournaments in the immediate months ahead. "It's not something I want to risk at all," said the world No. 28, who is a good distance away from the Olympic qualifying cutoff. "I'd rather train in Trivandrum and return only once the situation is normal. It's unlikely I'll play the Hyderabad Open in August. Health has to be the priority."

Coach Vimal Kumar, though, is glad to look at the silver lining. "It's quite unexpected and possibly early for competition to resume in August but I'd say I'm happy for the players. They need a starting point. Knowing that tournaments are beginning in a few months will give them a goal to work towards. Otherwise it can be just aimless training," said the director of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy.

The BWF, however, is yet to work out a model for unfreezing world rankings in a staggered manner and its announcement on the changes in Olympic qualifying regulations is still awaited.