A day of frantic calls across India and Germany with the Sports Authority of India, the ministry and the Indian consulate at Frankfurt swinging into action, has ensured that shuttlers Ajay Jayram and Subhankar Dey will serve out their quarantine in Saarbrucken and return home – latest by November 10. The duo was sent into isolation after having come in contact with coach DK Sen, who tested positive.

While their hotel, where they are in quarantine, was booked till October 30, help has arrived from SAI. The situation is tricky because Germany is heading into some sort of a lockdown from Monday with the second wave underway. “We are relieved they will look after food and accommodation,” Jayram said after the tournament organisers said they were helpless.

A series of lax actions all-round turned the European sojourn mid-pandemic into one nightmare for the independent, non-funded shuttlers even as the perils of smaller circuit events not enforcing every rule strictly were exposed.

Isolated in their hotel rooms, the duo will wonder how it all went wrong, despite them following every protocol. Training in Vienna after the Denmark Open, the duo had undergone the mandatory Covid-19 test 48 hours prior to the start of the tournament and tested negative. “When we reached we found out that Lakshya & team hadn’t gotten their tests done. We all went to the main hall where nobody checked either,” Dey recalls of October 26, a day before the start of the Super 100 Saarlolux Open.

Sen had in fact landed at the German town expecting a testing facility at the venue but was packed off to Frankfurt airport, 200 km away the next day. His father and coach DK Sen tested positive.

The event will remain on the edge as 40 others took the same bus as Sen a day before he took the test. “We all trained without masks obviously in the hall. Next day after the manager’s meeting, Sen, his physio and coach were sent for testing. In the afternoon, Lakshya informed us his coach had tested positive though he was negative,” Dey says.

It’s when the tournament organisers withdrew all the Indians from the meet. “They said ‘you were all together.’ We did have lunch together (kebabs) for 15 minutes (w/o masks), but though we were around the same place it was a separate table, little far away,” he adds.

The decision to single out the Indians is curious though, since the duo were in a different hotel. “And there’s many other Europeans I interacted with, who are staying here. We also practiced and Ajay played a match!” he says. Dey feels particularly hard done by since they had taken every precaution. “We spent our own money to get tested in Austria and waited two hours. We did every single thing,” he says.

Meanwhile a SAI spokesperson said this was done on humanitarian grounds and at discretion of the minister. “The DG (Sandeep Pradhan) took the initiative after we heard they were withdrawn, but this is rare and was done only in this situation so that Indian players are not left to others’ mercy. We are in touch with them,” she said.

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