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How to miss a Commonwealth medal

- Poor turf training blamed for Glasgow lawn bowl debacle

Perennial government unconcern, unfavourable conditions and arguably wrong choice of talent cost the Indian lawn bowl contingent, with five medal hopefuls from Jharkhand, a historic feat at the XX Commonwealth Games, which concluded in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday.

While the men’s bowling quartet — studded with two players from Ranchi — lost their chances at silver and bronze glory by a whisker, the men’s singles, pairs and triples teams as well as all the women’s teams cut a sorry figure at the prestigious event where Team India otherwise saw a medal rush.

Contrary to earlier Commonwealth outings, the Glasgow games had raised lawn bowl medal hopes given the team’s national performances. Team India coach Madhukant Pathak claimed that unfavourable conditions coupled with dearth of proper training had together dashed a dream.

“In the men’s four category, we reached till the bronze clash, which was unprecedented. But yes, we were hoping to make it to the top eight in all categories, besides bagging at least one medal, which unfortunately did not happen,” he said, adding that the team would come home on August 6.

In the lawn bowl singles, pairs and triples events, the boys ranked 14, 13 and 14, respectively. Similarly, the eves were 12, 10, 9 and 14 in singles, pairs, triples and fours. The only saving grace for this uncommonly played sport was the men’s quartet squad, represented by Kamal Kumar Sharma, Samit Malhotra, Chandan Kumar Singh and Dinesh Kumar, which stood fourth. Chandan and Dinesh are from Ranchi.

“We missed medals by a whisker after storming into the semi-finals thrashing Norfolk Island 26-2. The team was motivated and began well against England. But, rain played spoilsport. We lost 14-12. Against Australia for the third position, we were beaten 15-14. The key to success in such nail-biting matches is to keep nerves steady, but our boys somehow didn’t manage to keep calm,” Pathak mused.

In no uncertain terms, he also blamed playing conditions back home. “As I had said earlier, it was our first tryst with grass turf and extreme temperatures. The boys and girls, who always play on synthetic turf, had just three months of training on grass. Besides, our athletes slept on floors and received a food allowance of only Rs 180 a day from the government during the training. What nutrition can you afford at Rs 180?” the coach asked.

Most importantly, he added, the teams had played in no international meet in the past four years expect for the 9th Asian Lawn Bowls Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 2012. “All these things matter if you want athletes in fine fettle. Despite the odds, our boys have won the heart of the world’s bowling fraternity.”

Pathak maintained that as long as Union and state governments do not give the game of lawn bowl the respect it deserves, winning medals would remain a difficult proposition. “Challenges big and small notwithstanding, our players pursue the game because of sheer passion. Training and jobs are hard to get,” he added.

Some senior national players, on the other hand, criticised poor selection for the Commonwealth Games.

“The team was selected in haste and without trials. People running the organisation formed a cosy club of their favourites and went medal-hunting at the CWG. Prime talents were left behind. I have represented Jharkhand since the inception of this game here and have a record of clinching medal at every level. I was left out without any apparent reason. I took a break from training with permission and had gone home to Dhanbad. By the time I returned, the team had left for Glasgow,” said national-level lawn bowler Farzana Khan.

Another player, requesting anonymity, agreed. “Some people in the team were burden and see how they have performed,” she said.

Pathak denied the allegations. “The team was selected through a three-phase selection camp held in Ranchi,” he signed off.

What all should the state do to groom lawn bowl players?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com