The year has started off in the worst possible way for Indian badminton with Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy testing positive for the coronavirus in Thailand. Both players – who were scheduled to participate in the Thailand Open in Bangkok – returned a positive test in the third round of sampling in the tournament’s biosecurity bubble.

Prannoy and Nehwal were isolated according to safety protocol and admitted to hospital where they would stay for the next 10 days. Nehwal’s husband Parupalli Kashyap, who was in close contact with her, was also asked to go to the hospital. It has been tested again and the result is expected.

Badminton, who were very nervous about the reboot, was finally ready to shake things up with the Asian leg of the BWF tour from Bangkok. The Indian players were also eager to return to the pitch as the BWF tour resumed after a 300-day gap. Many, including Nehwal, Kashyap and Prannoy, were looking to earn ranking points to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

What is disconcerting is that this is the second time in a month that Prannoy has tested positive for Covid-19. Last month, Kashyap, Prannoy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and RMV Gurusai Dutt tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the latter’s wedding. Nehwal also attended the function, but his test was negative.

The players, asymptomatic at the time. isolated themselves at home, away from the Gopichand Academy where they were training. Reinfection, experts say, wreaks havoc on the body. So Prannoy, beyond the disappointment of having missed Thailand, has a difficult journey to take to get back into combat form to resume touring the world.

The Thailand Open kicked off on Tuesday. Saina, who was in the same category as PV Sindhu, was forced to hand over to Malaysia’s Kisona Selvaduray. Kashyap was also forced to forfeit his first game against Canada’s Anthony Ho-Shue.

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The rest of the Indian contingent – who thankfully had no contact with the duo who tested positive – were allowed to stay in the tournament. Sindhu was due to start his campaign against Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in the first round later Tuesday.

The Indian campaign in Thailand started off on a winning note with S Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa doing a short job of their opponents Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Widjaja in the first round of the mixed doubles competition. The Indian duo beat the Indonesia duo No. 8 in the world 21-11, 27-29, 21-16. India’s world No.36 combine was in full control throughout the game except in the second game which came into play. Rankireddy-Ponnappa will then play Chang Tak Ching and NG Wing Yung from Hong Kong.

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