India’s Confusing Messages Over Whether to Withdraw or to Participate at Malaysia Open

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Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth's Olympics hopes are fading as the Indian team's Malaysian Open participation is in doubt. (photo: AFP)
Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth's Olympics hopes are fading as the Indian team's Malaysian Open participation is in doubt. (photo: AFP)

Kuala Lumpur: On Thursday afternoon, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) announced prematurely that the Indian Badminton Team was forced to withdraw from the Malaysian Open which will be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 25 to May 30.

“The Indian Badminton Team will have to withdraw from the Malaysian Open, scheduled from May 25 to 30, owing to a temporary travel restriction imposed by the Malaysian Government on travelers from India,” said SAI in a statement issued at 5.22 pm, India time.

However, about an hour later, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) refuted such claims with a Tweet that said “STATUS of Travel to Malaysia”:

“Indian nationals won’t be allowed in Malaysia as well as in Singapore, this is already in public knowledge. This is why we had written to both the Member Countries to consider our request as a special case with respect to the Olympic qualification of some of our players. The matter has been taken up with BWF as well and we are awaiting Badminton Malaysia’s response. Until they decline any possibility we will continue to pursue every opportunity that we have to send our shuttlers.”

SAI then published another statement around 7.30 pm India time to clarify that they were still talking with the Malaysian government.

“The Sports Ministry, through the Ministry of External Affairs, has approached the Malaysian Government requesting to grant permission to the Indian badminton team to travel to Malaysia to participate in the Malaysian Open scheduled from May 25 to May 30. This is in light of a temporary travel ban that has been imposed by Malaysia on travelers from India, owing to the rising Covid 19 cases in India,” said SAI in its second statement.

“After the initial request made earlier this week, the Indian High Commission in Malaysia has received information from the Malaysian Government that the travel of the team may not be possible immediately. However, with 19 days left for the competition to begin, the possibility of travel cannot be ruled out completely,” continued SAI.

With direct travel not possible, BAI was contemplating arriving in Malaysia via Doha or Sri Lanka.

Two days ago, due to the COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Malaysia, the Malaysian government has placed Kuala Lumpur, where the tournament will be held, under the movement control order (MCO) from Friday (May 7) to May 20.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) held an internal meeting on Thursday night to discuss the feasibility of conducting the Malaysia Open in light of Malaysia’s 14-day mandatory for foreigners from 40 countries including badminton powerhouses like Denmark, Japan, and China.

The fate of the 2021 Malaysia Open is now hanging in the balance, as both BWF and BAM are expected to make an official announcement about the tournament sometime this week.

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