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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Grumpy England Plays Shuttle Politics

By Tushar Charan - (Syndicate Features)

The England players’ ‘unanimous’ decision to pull out of the world badminton championship just a day before its start in Hyderabad shows them and their association in poor light. While it will be equally ‘immature’—a word used by Indian star Saina Nehwal for the English players’ decision—to entirely dismiss reports of an LeT threat to the tournament in the southern metropolis, it has to be noticed that no other team thought it fit to scoot, bag and baggage, from Hyderabad.

There has also been an instant comparison with the decisions of the Scottish and Wales badminton teams to stay on for the tournament. Mention has been made of the English cricketers when they last came to India and following a terrorist attack temporarily returned home but came back to complete the series. But that comparison is perhaps not entirely appropriate because the badminton tourney in Hyderabad cannot obviously be interrupted and resumed at the pleasure of the English players.

More instructive has been the reasons given by the English badminton players for their vanishing act. It would appear that the reason was not confined to the terrorist threat but some other factors: the failure of the hosts to treat the English visitors as something less than a royalty.

The chief executive of Badminton England, Adrian Christy, declared as soon as he returned home that the security provided to the team did not match the ‘expected’ levels, both ‘on arrival’ and subsequently. He was obviously expecting a 21-gun salute at the airport, round-the-clock bodyguards for himself and his players and entries barred to every ‘native’ wherever the exalted English players went or played. Perhaps all that could have been arranged if India was still a colony of the British; or did the man think Britannia still ruled the waves?

Their top men’s player, Natahan Robertson, winner of an Olympian silver medal, was the most relieved person. He did not find Hyderabad to be a ‘safe place’ and was ‘glad to be home in one piece!’ For good measure everyone was reminded by the English players that there has been a spate of terror attacks in India by extremist groups LeT, a Pakistan-based outfit.

The team coach, Andy Wood, was appalled to find that access to the hotel and the stadium where the team practised was ‘easy.’ How come that ‘easy’ approach did not bother anyone else? But pray, what is an ‘easy’ approach? Should India have followed the British and American example and strip-search everyone who approached different places visited by the English badminton players?

It will be a pity if the Indian authorities, as is their wont, take a lenient view of the English arrogance—or should it be seen as cowardice? It had been made clear that the ‘threat’ perception to the world badminton championship at Hyderabad was not very specific. But the usual security precautions were in place in Hyderabad, as they will always be whenever international events, sporting or otherwise, are held in India because of the perpetual threat of terrorist attacks planned across the border.

The English badminton players and their association should be told in no uncertain terms that if they think India cannot meet the ‘levels’ of security they expect they should stay at home to remain ‘in one piece’ when the Commonwealth Games are held in Delhi next year. Any other of the 71 nations that are invited to the Games should also remain in their safe cocoons if India is too dangerous and risky for them and their egos.

Simultaneously, the government of India and sporting organisations in the world must make it clear once and for all that no team would be allowed to withdraw on ‘security’ considerations after a venue has been cleared with all due considerations, including the safety of players. An exception can be made only if something as unfortunate and unpredictable as the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, in March this year, takes place.

The English badminton association will get away with a ‘token’ fine. They will have the freedom to repeat their antics, especially if the chances of their team winning any medal appear dim, as they apparently did in Hyderabad.

The English badminton players were following a precedent set by, who else, the haughty Australians who most Indians today see as the epitome of racialism that is displayed on sporting fields as well as the streets of Australia, especially the areas swarmed by the brown-skinned ‘despicable’ Indians with ‘funny’ English accents who display their ‘opulence’ in the shape of cell phones.

Early this summer, the Australians had cried off a Davis Cup match against India in Chennai because they imagined Maulana Hafiz Saeed’s well-armed men were lurking in every corner of that ancient, peaceful southern city. Just how the Aussies had decided that they would be facing volleys from guns not tennis racquets in Chennai was never clear. At the time of writing this article, Australia returned from Hyderabad expressing concern over their health in the wake of Swine Flu outbreak..

In the display of the usual self-flagellation, we are known for; many have tended to blame the cricket administration for providing a cue to the English badminton players to throw tantrums about so-called flaws in security provided to the visitors. The highly lucrative and popular cricket league matches were shifted to South Africa from India because the government said it was not in a position to make all the security arrangements needed for a tournament of that size.

The government was not against staging the cricket matches in India; it was only stating the obvious that with the massive exercise of a general election coinciding with the cricket tournament it will not be possible to spare the necessary security forces for both the elections and the cricket ‘tamasha.’

For the Hyderabad tournament there was no other distraction in the country; at least nothing was in schedule though the likes of LeT are not known to announce any timetable for carrying out barbaric acts. As for the cricket tourney—all threats to the English, Australian and other foreign players disappears in the face of the dollar bonanza that each one of them receives for exhibiting their real or imaginary histrionics on and off the cricket fields.

- Asian Tribune -

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