HS Prannoy and six more Indians pull out of All England Open Badminton

Sameer Verma, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and others have withdrawn, citing coronavirus risk

Indian shuttlers HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and Sourabh Verma were among seven Indians to confirm their withdrawal from the All England Open badminton championships beginning on March 11 over fears of the novel coronavirus.

“We just didn't want to risk it. Some of us had a chat and agreed that travel at this point isn't safe. For me personally, the Olympic cut-off is way off so in that sense I have less to lose,” HS Prannoy told ESPN.

“We were hoping the All England would be called off given the current scenario of the virus but since it's going ahead, yesterday I took a call to pull out and texted Gopi sir (Pullela Gopichand) about my decision," Prannoy added.

Doubles specialists Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy were the other four Indian shuttlers to pull out.

"The situation is pretty bad so we decided to pull out rather than risk travel," said Chirag Shetty.

India's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty pull out of All England Open.

On Wednesday, England's National Health Service declared coronavirus a level four incident - the highest level emergency preparedness planning. This comes after 87 confirmed cases in the UK. The All England authorities said last week that they were 'closely monitoring' the situation and that the tournament is set to go ahead as planned.

India’s badminton stars PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth and B Sai Praneeth are expected to take part in the tournament as of now in their quest for a spot in the Olympics.

Several badminton events that were to act as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games have been either cancelled or postponed recently due to fear of the virus spreading.

The Badminton World Federation’s decision last week to not extend the qualification period and add more ranking events in the lead up to Tokyo was even met with concern from Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap, who urged badminton’s governing body to reconsider their stance.

The top 16 singles players in the qualification race, limited to two athletes from the same nation, are guaranteed spots in the Tokyo Games.