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All England Open: All Indian shuttlers cleared to play (3rd ld)

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By Rohit Mundayur

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) All Indian badminton players have been cleared to compete at the All England Open Championships, starting Wednesday, after results of their second Covid RT-PCR test on Wednesday came negative. Earlier, men’s singles players H.S. Prannoy and Sameer Verma and mixed doubles exponent Pranaav Jerry Chopra were among the four Indians who had returned positive results in the first round of testing at the Super 1000 tournament.

Masseur G. Srinivas was the fourth Indian to have returned a positive result.

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“Everyone has been allowed to play there. They (All England organisers) will now be putting up the draw shortly,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) general secretary Ajay Kumar Singhania told IANS on Wednesday evening.

Those who tested positive were given the opportunity to have a second test.

Interestingly, the Indian contingent were told about their positive Covid result orally. Saina and Kashyap tweeted to say that they had not received any report even after 30 hours of the Covid test.

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The Indian players and staff were stuck in their rooms since arriving in England due to the positive test results. The Badminton World Federation said a “significant number” of tests produced “inconclusive” results because of which all the samples were retested.

The testing process led to the tournament getting off to a delayed start on Wednesday. Originally set to start at 9 a.m. GMT (2.30 p.m. IST), the All England Open will now begin at 2 p.m. GMT (7.30 p.m. IST).

Sixteen Indians are competing in the championships.

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The testing process was something that left a few players puzzled. The 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, Saina Nehwal, and her husband, Parupalli Kashyap, tweeting their frustration.

“Ok I have to do this now! Matches are starting tomorrow at the @YonexAllEngland and still no reports of the Covid test done 30hrs before. No practice, no gym.. for 2 days now. @bwfmedia,” Saina tweeted late on Tuesday night.

“What kind of testing is this? 31 hours later still inconclusive and a re-test again god knows when… matches start tomorrow! @YonexAllEngland @bwfmedia #beyondabsurd #ridiculous,” tweeted Kashyap at almost the same time as wife Saina.

Earlier, India’s men’s doubles coach Mathias Boe had posted an Instagram story in which he said that all players have been cleared to play. “No positive tests in the (Indian) team anyone. We r ready for All England (sic.),” he said in his Instagram story.

Boe earlier said that it is absurd how Indians can test positive for the virus. “We have three players and one member from the support staff who have tested positive. I find it completely absurd how this can happen, since we have been isolated in Zurich since the Swiss Open started two weeks ago,” India’s Boe was quoted as saying by sport.tv2.dk, a Danish website.

“We have been tested 5 times in 14 days and all tests have been negative. We have only gotten along with each other, so how can they suddenly test positive?” he told the website.

The last Indian to win an All England title was Pullela Gopichand, in 2001.

–IANS

rkm/qma

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