One day after two tennis players got shot at the Thailand Open, India’s Sports Minister Vijay Goel sent out a chilling tweet: “The quality of my country is under threat. India needs to re-examine why players prefer to play abroad. Training outside our country puts them at risk of getting exposed to life threatening diseases.”
Ganguly tweets a total shutdown of Indian tennis in response to the travel advice. Ganga Rai, a top official in the country’s sport ministry, responded with a slap down to the tweet, “Not even gurudwaras have shut down to save life.”
The sting has apparently been absorbed. An assistant coach for the Thiruvananthapuram (Tamil Nadu) team told the Pune Mirror, “You must be aware that today some minor players were shot by a Bangladeshi rival. So let’s not forget that several cases of cancer have also been reported in India.”
Would-be competitors in Australia are already fleeing the country. Of the nine shortlisted players for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, only three are local, and all are known to have medical issues.
In their place are players from Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, China, Uzbekistan, Japan, Russia, Egypt, Italy, France, and Hungary.
Goel isn’t backing down. He said he would summon the chief ministers of states where players train to question them about the state of their hospitals and whether they were able to provide adequate medical care. He added, “A study should be conducted where to do sports medicine and elite sports institute in each state.”
He went on to say that shooting and first aid experts were needed to ensure players are safe.
On Friday, Mumbai-based tennis star Yuki Bhambri said he would leave Thailand before the finals to be fit for Indian Wells and Miami. He was involved in an argument with teammate Saketh Myneni over heated words last month. Mehta confirmed that Bhambri was carrying his own “bullet-proof” bags.