Malappuram: Expressing disappointment over his exclusion from the list of Arjuna Award nomination by the Badminton Association of India (BAI), ace shuttler H S Prannoy said he was planning to utilise the relaxation in norms and self-nominate for the prestigious award.
Recently, the sports ministry has extended the deadline for submitting applications for the national sports awards till June 22 apart from allowing athletes to self-nominate in view of the difficulties being faced by them to find eligible members to recommend them amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The relaxation offers a window of opportunities for those athletes who have neither been shortlisted by their national sports federations nor got the backing of previous awardees.
After being ignored for the Arjuna last year, the 27-year-old Prannoy had questioned the selection criteria of the award, saying that ‘knowing people who can push a nomination is more important than performances on court’.
“I’m hopeful that my contributions to the sport will be recognised. I’m one of the three Indian players who broke into the top-8 in the BWF rankings. I have won several medals for the country in recent years that include a gold at the Commonwealth Games. I’m certain that I will have the supports of sports enthusiasts in Kerala in my fight against this injustice," Prannoy said in an interview with Malayala Manorama.
What could be reason for your exclusion from the list of nominees submitted by the BAI?
To be honest, I don’t know. In fact, nobody told me the reason for ignoring me in the last three years. I’ve never lobbied for awards or push my nomination through influential people. I guess that could be the reason. I’m not one who goes around begging for awards. I’m sure that the members of the award panel are well aware of my achievements and eligibility. A player should get recognised and honoured when he plays at his peak, otherwise awards cease to have any meaning. I was surprised when Sameer Verma, who did not have any creditable performance last year, was nominated by the BAI ahead of me.
Do you think the parent body did it intentionally?
In the past also, I had questioned the selection criteria of the award. These things have been happening for quite some time now. I raise my voice and react to such injustices when I realise that there is nobody to speak for people like me. It is obvious that my outbursts have not gone down well with many in the BAI. Last year, I was not sent to the Asian Badminton Championship despite being eligible to participate. Remember, the previous year I had won a bronze medal in that event. I had openly expressed my displeasure over the ill-treatment meted out to me. I had also vented my anger publically when I was denied the Arjuna Award before. This could be the reason for me falling out of favour with the BAI top-brass.
Have you ever been discriminated against for being a Malayalee?
There were instances of Kerala players being treated shabbily by the badminton federation. Otherwise, Aparna Balan and Rupesh Kumar would have received the Arjuna Award much before. Unfortunately, I’m not getting much support from the state association because I don’t play for Kerala. If there is nobody to support you, the job becomes easy for the people who are looking to sideline you.
Will the award snub affect your performance?
No way. When I play, my entire focus will be on the game and the opponent. The only goal is winning and making the country proud. I have started practicing after an injury lay-off. I’m working hard to improve my ranking and qualify for the Olympics.
Tom Joseph's take
“Prannoy is facing the same issues that I had faced. I had to wait for ten long years to receive the Arjuna Award. Even if you do well and bring laurels to the country, you are at the mercy of sports bodies as far as awards are concerned.”
(Tom Joseph is a former captain of the Indian volleyball team)