'I have made the clarification that those who are competing abroad should continue.'
World champion P V Sindhu was on Friday ousted from the All England Championship after being outplayed by a determined Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, who rallied her way to victory in the quarter-final of the women's singles event, in Birmingham.
The 24-year-old Indian squandered a sparkling start as Okuhara produced a rearguard action to outwit Sindhu 12-21, 21-15, 21-13 in a 68-minute last eight encounter at the Arena Birmimgham.
Sindhu's defeat ended India's campaign at the Super 1000 tournament.
Sindhu had come into the match with a 9-7 head-to-head record against Okuhara, having demolished the Japanese in the finals of the 2019 World Championships.
The Indian started the match with the same intensity, quickly moving to a 3-0 lead and then swelling the advantage to 7-2 with a precise shot at the backline.
The Japanese narrowed the gap to 5-8 before Sindhu unleashed a shot at the back and then grabbed another point when Okuhara found the net.
Sindhu entered the break with a five-point cushion. The Indian continued to dominate the proceedings after the breather, putting her opponent under pressure to gather points at will.
Okuhara got a few points with her straight and cross court smashes but those were too few as Sindhu zoomed to 18-9.
With Okuhara's weak returns going to the nets, Sindhu had a massive 20-11 advantage. The Indian quickly sealed the opening game when Okuhara erred again.
After the change of sides, Okuahara showed more intent, employing a low service and tried to put Sindhu on the back foot. It worked as she took a 5-2 lead. The Japanese engaged Sindhu in fierce rallies and forced her to make errors to lead 7-3.
A couple of unforced errors from Okuhara helped Sindhu to narrow the gap. A cross-court shot and return of serve helped Sindhu keep it to 8-10 before Okuhara entered the mid-game interval with a three-point lead.
Okuhara didn't let the momentum slip after the break as Sindhu failed to keep pace in the rallies. The result was that the Japanese jumped to a 16-9 lead in a jiffy.
With Sindhu going long twice, Okuhara led 18-10 and soon roared back into the contest when Sindhu found the net after saving three game points.
In the decider, Okuhara continued to dictate the pace of the rallies, leading 5-2 early on. The Japanese didn't allow Sindhu to attack, reducing the Indian to play the retrieving game.
A stunning return at the deep forehand of Sindhu gave Okuhara a 8-3 lead. The lightening quick Okuhara left Sindhu frustrated with her speed and placement as she grabbed a 11-5 advantage at the interval.
The errors continued to pile up for the Indian as Okuhara took a 16-7 lead. Sindhu missed the lines and found the net regularly to allow Okuhara move to 19-11. The Japanese eventually grabbed seven match points and sealed the match when Sindhu committed another error.
Earlier, wary of the novel coronavirus threat, top shuttler PV Sindhu had called up Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju from the United Kingdom, seeking his suggestion on whether to continue playing in the All England Championships in Birmingham.
Rijiju said on Friday that he told Sindhu to carry on playing in the tournament and follow the safety guidelines of that country.
The Sports Ministry had on Thursday issued an advisory asking national federations to follow the Health Ministry's guidelines and avoid large gatherings in sports events. Earlier, it had asked all National Sports Federations to exercise caution while sending teams for foreign competitions.
"Sindhu called me and I told her that those who are playing outside in important tournaments like the Olympic qualifications can continue to play but they should follow guidelines of those respective countries. They should also take certain safety measures," Rijiju told the media after the General Body Meeting of the Sports Authority of India in New Delhi on Friday.
Asked about shuttler Parupalli Kashyap expressing confusion regarding the advisory of the Health Ministry through his tweets, Rijiju said, "I have made the clarification that those who are competing abroad should continue."
"The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is personally monitoring the situation. We are very serious. Public health is a concern and the government at the highest level has taken a decision to ensure that there are no events happening with large number of people gathering."
Rijiju said that Indian players who had taken part in competitions held at the seven notified countries as well as athletes from those nations coming for events in India will have to be compulsorily quarantined.
"Whether they are Indian players or foreign athletes, they have to be quarantined," he said.
The seven notified countries are China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France, Spain and Germany.
Asked if the India Open badminton tournament, scheduled to be held later this month without spectators, will go ahead, he said, "We have issued advisories to all NSFs, including BCCI, regarding players going abroad and for those taking part in events inside the country.
"Which federation had reacted in what manner, I don't want to go into that. These guidelines will have to be followed in letter and spirit by the NSFs. They should also follow the guidelines of the Health Ministry."
The coronavirus pandemic has wrecked havoc the world over with the international sporting calendar going haywire, with many events, including Olympic qualifiers, being either postponed or cancelled.
"The shooting World Cup is postponed, basketball Olympic qualifier is postponed. And they (the BCCI) decided to postpone it (IPL). It was a decision taken in the interest of the nation. Health must be a priority for everybody," Rijiju said.
Asked about any advisory on the senior national hockey team players who are still inside the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru which has been shut down, he said, "Those inside the camps, all necessary precautionary measures are being taken. I have asked the officials to keep in touch with them.
"We have issued two advisories, one for domestic events and another for those athletes training abroad."