awesome twosome: Dinesh Kumar and Lovely Choubey with their trophies and gold medals in Kuala Lumpur
They are rolling in medals but official recognition is hard to come by.
Since 2007, when lawn bowls was introduced in Jharkhand, the game of steady grip and shoot has been churning out champions, medals and titles by the dozen. But when it comes to recognising the champions, the state sports department develops cold feet.
Earlier this month, Jharkhand’s Lovely Choubey and Dinesh Kumar clinched gold for India in mixed pairs at the Sime Darby Merdeka Asia Pacific Lawn Bowling Championship, Kuala Lumpur, defeating top seed Malaysians.
Jharkhandi Sunil Bahadur, won bronze in a singles event. Of the four-member Indian team, three — Lovely, Sunil and Dinesh — were Jharkhandis.
Back home, the champions look lost.
“We spent some Rs 55,000-60,000 for the Malaysian trip from our own pockets. On our return, we expected to be noticed. Nothing of the sort happened. We met sports minister Geetashree Oraon last week and told her about our problem. She said she would try and look into the matter,” Lovely, who left a permanent job in CISF few years ago to pursue this sport, said.
To make matters worse, Lovely and Dinesh haven’t received their stipends from the state for over a year.
“I am entitled to Rs 6,000 a month, which I don’t get,” Lovely said. “When it comes to sportspersons, money is also about morale. Apathy hurts our morale badly.”
Dinesh, her partner, was once a football trainer.
“I switched to lawn bowls for the love of the game. But I now feel I should have opted for something else. How long can we keep investing from our own pockets?” he said.
Motivation at an all-time low, Jharkhand Lawn Bowling Association officials are afraid that top seed players would shun the game before the 35th National Games in Kerala next year.
“We are hoping for a clean sweep of all 11 gold medals. But what if our champs back out,” said a senior official.
The fears aren’t really unfounded. Lovely, for instance, mined no words.
“Main toh khelna hi chhor dun soch rahi hoon. Association ke log persuade karte hain toh khel rahi hoon but pata nai kab tak. (I am planning to stop playing. It is only due to the persuasion from association members that I am still in this game but I don’t know till when),” she added.
Compared to other games, lawn bowl is a newbie. It made its official entry into the Commonwealth Games in 1984.
Jharkhand embraced it 2007 in the run-up to the 34th National Games in Ranchi in 2011. It began with a bang and never looked back.
According to the secretary of the state lawn bowling outfit Madhukant Pathak, during last year’s nationals in Delhi, Jharkhand made a clean sweep with eight golds. “Medals are many, support is scarce. If players switch gears, it is a loss to the nation,” he said.