Asian Games 2018: Boxers Sachin Siwach, Nikhat Zareen in selection controversy ahead of quadrennial event

Sachin Siwach and Nikhat Zareen would never have expected to be in the same boat, especially as castaways of the Boxing Federation of India. They had put their best foot forward in the National camp for months and in recent competitions only to be told on Wednesday that they had no place in Friday’s trials where the Indian team for the Asian Games to be held in Indonesia from 17 August was to be picked.

The Mail Today reported that the young boxers Siwach and Nikhat had written to the BFI President Ajay Singh, seeking a chance to compete in the trials. Quite strangely, till the time of writing, the Federation appears to have remained unmoved by the requests of the young pugilists to be allowed the chance to compete against their opponents in the trials.

Siwach, for instance, has contended that he was better than Gaurav Solanki in the 52kg class. They had both beat a Cuban Jorge Grinan — Siwaich in the World Youth Boxing Championship 2016 final in St. Petersburg by a unanimous 5-0 verdict and Solanki in the Chemistry Cup by a split 3-2 margin. The young Haryana boxer claims that he has the better victory over the Cuban.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. ReutersSac

Nikhat, who returned from injury to win gold in a Belgrade event in April, makes a more telling case saying that she has the best international result in the 51kg class since the Commonwealth Games. Her larger contention is that she was not given the chance to spar against either rival, Sarjubala Devi or Pinki Jangra, when the selectors were watching.

The Boxing Federation of India makes it appear that it is facing a problem of plenty by leaving out the two talented youngsters from the fray for the Asian Games trials to be held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium complex in New Delhi on Friday. The body will take shield behind the 18 May decision that allowed the selectors to call for a bout if they needed to come to a decision.

It was decided that the final selection meeting would be held on 26 June and if the panel believed that the difference in ranking points between the top two boxers in certain weight categories was negligible, it could ask for resolution through bouts in such classes on 28 and 29 June. However, it would appear that the government observer, Akhil Kumar, was not a party to the decision.

However, a letter signed by the BFI Secretary General Jay Kowli does not mention that the trials would be only between the top two ranked boxers. This led the likes of Siwach and Nikhat to believe that they would stand the chance of showing their mettle at the trials so that the selectors could make a fair decision.

The Federation should have announced the detailed selection procedure in that letter and not sprung a shock on the boxers who were fancying their chances of beating the others and making the grade. Instead, it is only a part of the minutes that says the selectors could ask for the top two boxers in each weight category to duel for a berth in the Asian Games team.

What’s more, Kowli could now well be wringing his hands in despair at being unable to act on the frantic pleas. For, it appears that the decision to eliminate some boxers ahead of the trials was made by someone else, perhaps in consultation with the coaches, but without the knowledge of the elected officials.

Normally, the murmurs of discontent among the Asian Games hopefuls would have found echoes in media and the Indian Olympic Association would have intervened to tell the Boxing Federation to give each aspirant a fair chance of being picked for the Indian team. However, these whispers have been drowned by the symphony and cacophony emerging from Russia.

In any case, aware that the mainstream media will have much on its plate this time of the year, most National Federations deferred the selection of teams for the Asian Games till the final week.

They appear to have observed how the Equestrian Federation of India had tied itself in knots over team selection and discretely decided that delaying trials can be beneficial.

The Boxing Federation’s last-minute decision on who would compete in the selection trials has given the ones left out with little time to react. The aggrieved boxers have done well to seek the help of the Federation president and stayed away from making public statements despite discovering that their Asian Games dreams would end before the trials.

The boxers have been left hoping that the Indian Olympic Association or the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports through the Sports Authority of India would intervene to give them a tilt at earning a berth in the Asian Games squad. If it were an annual event, they may not have been wishing for divine intervention, but the prestigious Asian Games comes only once in four years.

All they are asking for is a chance to compete in the trials. And there should be no reason for them to be denied that fair opportunity. It is a travesty that nobody within the boxing circle was ready to take up their cases on Thursday. With the weighing-in scheduled for 7.00 am on Friday, Siwach and Nikhat were left with only a prayer for a miracle.


Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 01:24 AM

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