Reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the women’s singles, former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal will not be participating in the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as the 32-year-old shuttler has not been able to qualify for the squad headed for the Games.
Struggling with injury and form for the larger part of the past couple of years, Saina Nehwal has currently slipped to No. 24 on the BWF rankings, making her eventually miss the Tokyo Olympics cut last year as well since she did not meet the qualification window. And now, Nehwal, who has been one of the most successful badminton stars at the Commonwealth Games, will not be taking part in the upcoming Birmingham event.
Nehwal, who was enjoying a rave form during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games had gone on to clinch gold in the women’s singles final where she defeated fellow Indian badminton ace, PV Sindhu, 21-18, 23-21 in a tight clash to bag her second gold in the women’s singles at the Commonwealth Games.
Her first gold medal came during the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, where she defeated Malaysia’s Wong Mew Choo. Overall, Nehwal has a whopping 5 medals from the CWG and has never returned empty-handed from any CWG she participated in.
However, Saina Nehwal has not been named on the 2022 Commonwealth Games squad as the ace shuttler did not appear for the BAI Selection trials that were held in April citing heightened injury risk and ended up, being left out of the squad by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) who did not bend and give any exception to the defending champion who is trying to regain her form.
According to the selection policy, all players outside the BWF Top 15 would have had to take part in trials to determine their place on the squad for the CWG and the Asian Games and the Uber Cup. However, Nehwal chose to skip the week-long trials fearing injuries as she was participating in the Badminton Asia Championships in end-April.
Raising quite the ruckus, Saina Nehwal had lashed out against the BAI in April over this exclusion and the sudden announcement of trials hence. On the other hand, HS Prannoy, who was also ranked at World No. 23 then was given an exception by the BAI and included in the Thomas Cup squad, given his massively improved form (which continues to show today) but for the CWG squad, even Prannoy didn’t make the cut because of his ranking and the presence of Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth, higher up in the BWF rankings.
Of late, Nehwal has been playing well and reached the quarterfinals of the Singapore Open 2022 Super 500 after she defeated Tokyo bronze medal match finalist and World No. 9 China’s He Bing Jiao in the pre-quarterfinals. However, she lost to Japan’s Aya Ohori in a painful heartbreaking affair, 13-21, 21-15, 20-22 in her first quarterfinal appearance in 15 months.
Speaking on Saina’s exclusion to The Indian Express, fellow badminton star and Nehwal’s husband Parupalli Kashyap said, “It’s about the amount of disrespect shown to a player. It’s about your own people treating you like s***.
She’s been in tears often, and the issue of non-selection crops up in conversations every second day when she speaks. It’s very very tough to even practice, and you are not sure, mentally, whether you are preparing to fight your own people or opponents. Your intentions in the match go all wrong in such times, and it’s a terrible mind space,” Kashyap had mentioned.
Instead of Nehwal, Aakarshi Kashyap will be the second women’s singles player going from India along with Sindhu to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.