Junior world number four Vaishnavi Jakka Reddy's grandmother, Sowjanya Jakka Reddy, has filed a writ petition against national chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) over omitting the teenage shuttler's name from the women's badminton team that will be representing the country at Asian Games, starting August 18 in Jakarta.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, the Indian Olympic Association, and the Union of India, through its secretaries, have also been named as respondents in the petition filed at the Delhi High Court, according to Sportskeeda.
Gopichand has been accused of snubbing Vaishnavi, the third-highest ranked women's singles shuttler at 53 (BWF), to facilitate his 15-year-old daughter, Gayathri Gopichand's inclusion in the team.
Vaishnavi, 16, was not picked "at the behest of respondent No.3 [Pullela Gopichand], solely to facilitate the accommodation/ inclusion of his daughter Gayatri Gopichand Pullela, who does not have any World Rankings, not even in top 300 players", according to the petition, as quoted by the report.
How was the Asian Games squad selected
Notably, the BAI had organised two selection events in June in Bengaluru and Hyderabad in order to select the teams for the continental multi-sport event.
Seven players, including Sourabh Verma, Ashmita Chaliha, Sai Uttejitha Rao, Gayathri, Akarshi Kashyap, Rutuparna Panda, and Arathi Sara Sunil were selected based on their performances in the two tournaments.
Top-ranked players — Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu (women's singles); Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma (men's singles); Chirag Shetty/Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (men's doubles); Ashwini Ponnappa/N Sikki Reddy (women's doubles); and Satwik/Ponnappa and Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Sikki (mixed doubles) — were exempted from featuring in the tournament.
For the first time in the history of Indian badminton, selection tournaments were reportedly held this year to give a chance for the selectors to asses the players' performance rather than just picking based on rankings.
Anup Narang, the official spokesperson of BAI, also confirmed that such selection tournaments will be held for all international events in future.
Notably, Gopichand's daughter isn't ranked at the senior level on BWF charts but reached the semi-final of the selection tournament in Hyderabad before she was slotted into the 20-member squad.
Vaishnavi didn't attend selection tournament due to injury: Shuttler's father
Vaishnavi was unable to attend either of the selection tournaments. However, the teenager's father, Vinod Kumar Reddy, told Sportskeeda that her daughter was injured and they had informed about the same to the BAI.
"She was injured and so, couldn't play the selection tournaments. The doctor had advised three weeks of rest. We had informed the association over a mail. And yet, she was not even considered," Reddy said.
This is not the first time Vaishnavi's camp has criticised Gopichand for favouritism. In September last year, the young shuttler's grandmother requested the BAI to withdraw her entry for World Junior Championships after she was denied a place in the singles unit.
Vaishnavi had been training at the Pullela Gopichand Academy but she decided to quit and shift her base to Bangkok three years ago due to lack of attention. The former U-13 world number one has been consistently impressing at the international level ever since and also played her first World Tour Super 1000 tournament in Indonesia earlier this week.
The Hyderabad shuttler was also part of India's Uber Cup squad and returned with a win and two losses.