The Badminton Association of India's attempt to make an example out of Jwala Gutta by threatening to impose a life ban on her for her role in an IBL controversy might have gone one step too far, as the fiery shuttler has been advised to seek legal recourse and not go down without a fight. Gutta's long-time coach SM Arif was livid upon hearing about the disciplinary committee's recommendation of a life ban, and said that the BAI was digging its own grave by punishing its own player.
"I'm surprised, and want to know why the story was leaked slyly to the media and Jwala wasn't sent a notice informing her of the likely ban, in which case she could have responded. It's absolutely absurd that the disciplinary committee has gone ahead recommending a ban without taking facts or the reality into consideration. I will be advising her to go to court," Arif said. A circular of the recommendation was sent to members, but the implementation was left to the discretion of BAI president Akhilesh Dasgupta who is believed to have said that an unconditional apology from Gutta would be enough for the BAI to climb down and not impose the ban.
Gutta was not available for comment, citing a gag order.
The BAI sent out the circular saying the disciplinary committee headed by BAI vice president S Muralidharan had recommended a life ban on Gutta for trying to stop some players from her franchise Delhi Smashers from playing a match against Banga Beats in the IBL. Delhi had threatened to pull out of the match over the last-minute replacement of injured singles player Hu Yun of Hong Kong with Denmark's Jan Jorgensen — a higher ranked shuttler.
As an icon player of Delhi Smashers, Jwala was at the forefront of the argument, which was resolved after Beats left out Jorgensen and played Arvind Bhat, who was already part of the team. However, the start of the tie, telecast live, was delayed by half an hour.
"Firstly, Jwala didn't sound very apologetic in her response to our first notice and came across as arrogant," Muralidharan said. "She got players to boycott the tie by half an hour. It was internationally telecast, and if it had been held up by a further half hour, she would have endangered the fate of the IBL, risked damaging the image of BAI and lost the faith of spectators. She gave the governing council a tough time, but now ball is in the president's court."
He added that there were provisions for a life ban, a 6-year-ban, and an unconditional apology (and no ban) in his recommendation. When asked why no franchise was informed about the precise rules of replacement of players, which led to the original confusion, Muralidharan said, "That's not my duty or under my purview."
Gutta had been served a 14-day show cause notice by BAI for her conduct during the tie, but was not informed of the recommended ban. Banga Beats coach Vimal Kumar had said earlier that confusion about replacement rules had led to the fracas.
In her response to BAI, Jwala said, "It was a decision by the Delhi franchise and not an individual move. Owners asked me to act like that and there is nothing wrong on my part. I have been appointed as an icon player by Delhi and as a captain I acted." Muralidharan said he wasn't convinced and had recommended a ban, so that BAI would be seen as cracking the whip on errant players.
The event's organisers Sporty Solutionz had apparently sent a similar notice to the Delhi team for an explanation, but no action on the franchise is imminent. "How can she alone be punished for a team decision?" Arif questioned. "The BAI is alienating its own players, and this will show in India's performance."