New Delhi: The AITA national selection panel on Wednesday courted a controversy by dropping Snehadevi Reddy from the women`s Asian Games squad, giving her place to Shweta Rana, who was initially included as a reserve player.
Now Snehadevi has been made a reserve player while Shweta is part of the six-member playing squad as AITA described the move as a "corrective" step.
Shweta (580) is a higher-ranked tennis player than Snehadevi (889) and incidentally had beaten the latter in the second ITF event in Delhi a few days back.
The selection committee, headed by Anil Dhupar, took the decision today, after considering a request from Shweta, who argued that she was the fifth-highest singles player in the country so she should be included in the Asian Games team.
Then AITA shot off a letter to Snehadevi, informing her about the change in squad. The letter stated that she was "very promising player" and have a bright future and it is because of this reason the selectors had decided to include her in the team for the Asian Games.
"We sincerely hope you will not feel discouraged and will continue to put in your best efforts to become a leading player in world tennis," the letter read.
The Selection Committee also informed Snehadevi that she will be recommended for financial assistance from the government as an Asian Games probable for the 2019 edition.
Explaining the move, Dhupar said after a giving a thought, they felt that a mistake had been done and that has been "rectified".
"We chose to encourage her but you see, she did not play well in Bangalore. She is also three years younger to Shweta and will get chances in future. So we thought, let`s change it if a mistake has been done. AITA has only rectified a mistake," Dhupar told PTI.
"And she (Snehadevi) is ranked below other players," he added. When reminded that rankings were available at the time of selection also, Dhupar said," Yes they were, but I told you this is a corrective step."
However, the 17-year-old Snehadevi, who hails from Chennai but trains in Spain, said it was "unfair".
"It is disappointing. After selecting me they should not have changed it. They made the announcement of my selection public and now it will be embarrassing to face sponsors and others," Snehadevi told PTI from Chennai after a practice session.
"Anyway, I will work hard and let my racquet do all the talking. In a way I am happy that my name was at least there, that I was considered. I will work harder."
Her father P Shankar Reddy, who runs a business in Mumbai, was also peeved at the AITA decision.
"It is really discouraging for my daughter and it is wrong. We had not asked for her inclusion. They
themselves included her. My daughter will work hard and improve her ranking so that she is an automatic choice next time," Reddy said.
He also said that Sneha has planned to play 24 ITF tournaments this season to improve her ranking.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) Vice-President Karti Chidambaram was furious at the AITA decision.
"This is an absurd decision to drop Sneha. Nothing professional or rational can be expected from a committee headed by a non-tennis player (read Dhupar)," a fuming Karti told PTI.
"AITA must be the only sporting body where the Chairman of Selectors doesn`t come with any credentials. Even the all powerful BCCI does not put non-cricketers in the Selection Committee. Both Ramkumar and Sneha have been given a raw deal as far as the Asiad is concerned. They are the best teenage tennis players in India today," he added.