Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal Image Credit: Xinhua News Agency

Dubai: Two of India’s top badminton stars — Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth — may lose out on qualifying spots at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games following last week’s amendments to the calendar by world governing body, Badminton World Federation (BWF).

Last week, the BWF announced that players would be allowed to maintain the points that they had already earned up to March 15 this year, while considering them for the 2021 Olympic qualification. The BWF released a revamped calendar after rescheduling a number of top-tier events that were previously postponed or suspended due to the coronavirus.

In total, 22 tournaments are set to take place over five months, starting with the Hyderabad Open from August 11 to 16.

The BWF World Tour is scheduled to return with the Taipei Open 2020, a Super 300, event from September 1 to 6, while the World Tour Finals in the Chinese city of Guangzhou have been pushed back to December 20.

Kidambi Srikanth.

Indian players such as B. Sai Praneeth and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap have been among those who’ve been critical of the BWF’s updated calendar for the remainder of 2020.

World No. 13 Praneeth has been quoted as calling the re-worked calendar a “stupid schedule”, while Kashyap has voiced concerns on the regulations relating to quarantine, immigration and international flights.

BWF general secretary Thomas Lund has come in swiftly to reiterate that it is a condensed calendar allowing badminton to start afresh, while suggesting that events may be rescheduled again if it is not safe to play.

Indian players like Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and PV Sindhu can stay content with the thought of making it based on them being well within the range of Olympic qualification mark before the pandemic, but players such as Srikanth and Nehwal will need the points to ensure appearances at Tokyo 2020.

As per new BWF regulations, all points earned under Race to Tokyo ranking list will not be disturbed. However, an extended Olympic qualification will now be introduced afresh from Week 1 to 17 in 2021 so that a select number of cancelled or postponed tournaments can be organised.

Further, tournaments rescheduled for the end of 2020 will now not count towards Olympic qualifying, and only those in 2021 will be considered.

As per the latest Race to Tokyo — BWF Olympic Qualification, the women’s singles is being led by Chen Yu Fei of China, followed by Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying and the Japanese pair of Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi, then defending Olympic champion Carolina Marin, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon and India’s PV Sindhu, who had won silver in Rio 2016.

Nehwal, whose best was a bronze at London 2012 and who turned 30 in March, is current lying in 22nd place in the women’s singles race.

Srikanth, who turned 27 in February, is also in 22nd place in the men’s singles race, followed by countrymen Lakshya Sen (No. 25), Sourabh Verma (No. 27), Parupalli Kashyap (No. 29) and Prannoy H.S. (No. 30).

Though this is not the final list of qualifiers, the rankings are a representation of which players could qualify for Tokyo 2020 based only on the accrued world ranking points from tournaments within the Olympic Qualification Period.

In addition to the rankings, there are tripartite commission positions and host positions to be confirmed, thus bringing down the ranking lists for men’s and women’s singles as having a minimum of 34 available slots as per the rankings.