First came the news that the Indian Olympic Association sent a list of 935 athletes and officials for the upcoming Asian Games. This was followed by a government statement on Wednesday that the humongous list will be pruned drastically before finalising the contingent early next week.
The IOA list has 662 athletes (373 men and 289 women) and 270 coach/officials, with track and field athletes and shooters making up the highest number of representation. This is higher than the 626 athletes and about 200 officials that India sent to Guangzhou, China, in 2010.
However, Sports Authority of India (SAI) has other ideas. dna has reliably learnt that there are about 15 disciplines for which SAI has second thoughts. This includes football as well as table tennis teams (both men and women) apart from lesser known disciplines.
The list sent by the IOA to the sports ministry for clearance included 38 footballers (20 men and 18 women) and 10 table tennis players (five men and five women). Apart from these two, SAI has also recommended that players from basketball, handball and sepak takraw should not be sent to Incheon for participation as there is no hope of winning medals.
Not just these five, there are 10 more disciplines that have been kept in the category for which players can be sent at either National Sports Federation (NSF) cost or at their own cost. The list includes fencing, bowling, baseball, softball, rugby, karate, triathlon, soft tennis, and modern pentathlon.
On the other hand, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has already declined to send its team to the Asiad though there is a chance of winning a medal there.
The qualification standard defined by SAI to send teams to Asiad were set as sixth place in the individual event and eighth place in the team game. The decision to not recommend football, TT, basketball and handball has come as a shocker because according to SAI's own assessment, the football team could finish in the top five, handball in the first seven, basketball in first six and TT amongst first five or six.
As per SAI's estimate, India are likely to win between 72 and 100 medals during the September 19-October 4 event. Though SAI director general Jiji Thomson didn't mention about these recommendations during his press conference on Wednesday, it has been learnt that "below par standing" has been given as a cause for the exclusion of the rest of the 10 disciplines.
Meanwhile, Fencing Association of India's president DD Boro has objected to SAI's recommendation on the ground that his players were not even sent to the Games last time in 2010. "We've already sent our entry to the SAI. And stopping fencers from participating would prove fatal for this game in India," said Boro.
SAI DG Jiji Thomson, too, hinted that the government was in the process of trimming the list. "We are going to prune down the list by taking into account the medal winnabilty factor of the athletes. The number of coaches/officials will have to be 24 per cent of the total number of athletes," Thomson said.
"We will prepare the rankings of the players and teams, and prepare a list for the sports minister to take a final decision. I think the minister will sign on final list by Monday," he added.