Leaving table tennis players stranded at airport not just an insult to Indian sport but indicative of attitude towards athletes

How much genius does it take to figure out that when someone is representing your country and carrying that honour with them, be it sport or science or the arts, they get priority.

The shamefulness of splitting the 17-strong table tennis squad bound for Melbourne and leaving seven of them stranded because Air India had overbooked the flight at IGI Airport is unprecedented.

 Leaving table tennis players stranded at airport not just an insult to Indian sport but indicative of attitude towards athletes

File image of Manika Batra. AFP

Not just that, but to add insult to injury the seven are shoved into a dingy two-star hotel and this is supposed to be a courtesy.

Think of it. This is the Indian team going to take part in an international tournament led by Manika Batra, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and she volunteers to be one of the seven. Our best bet.

How do we do this? There are over 350 passengers on that plane? How is it decided that the best thing is to pick the Indian team because the others are revenue paying passengers and these must be government ordered concession tickets? Is that how it works…or is it first come, first served? Would they do this to Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore? Or even Jayant Sinha when he is not preoccupied garlanding convicts on bail?

You know the scary part? This could have happened to Hima Das when she was not well known last week. The country would probably have not won a gold medal in an international athletic meet, and we would have been deprived of the pride at seeing the raising of the national flag, hearing the anthem and the whole nine yards of glory that comes with being first in that incredibly moving ceremony.

Sorry, Miss Das the flight is overbooked, please go to a two-star hotel in a side street, take the bus, no idea when the next connecting flight to Frankfurt is and no we do not fly to Finland.

It is a thought, but would the Indian cricket team ever be in danger of getting divided due to an overbooked flight. Imagine you are at the airport, just two days away from the first ODI in England, and suddenly you are told that seven of you cannot be on the plane. Your papers are in order, your visa live and kicking, your passport valid. But they are no seats. Everybody fetched up.

Okay, Virat, you as the skipper, Rahul, Dhoni, any volunteers, yes, Kuldeep as the spring chicken, off to the Hotel Grande in that little lane past the garbage heap and the barking dogs.

Not only is what happened an insult to Indian sport per se but indicative of a cruel attitude to its practitioners, men and women who dedicate their lives to a discipline.

Imagine these players in their travel uniforms with INDIA emblazoned on their backs hanging around like spares with no one to do them reverence.

Why should the treatment be different whether it is kabaddi, hockey, volleyball or table tennis, the Indian team is the Indian team. Period. Air India’s argument that they were not apprised of the team coming is rubbish. The airline has a passenger manifest. Offloading on an overbooked flight is a discretionary matter. With three hours to take off, the upper rungs of the Air India’s hierarchy could have gotten involved. All over the world they give you incentives to volunteer and get off if there is no urgency and that includes a free ticket, upgrades, money and five-star accommodation. None of that was done so stop talking about loving sportspeople.

And the truly sad part of this grotesque incident is that there is no apology, no explanation on why a representation of a country was not given priority (a contingent of MPs on a junket would never have been offloaded), not even a tweet from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Sushma Swaraj.

Not even Rahul Gandhi. Forbid the thought, he may fetch up at the two-star hotel to hug them all.

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Updated Date: Jul 23, 2018 13:38:16 IST