How often have we heard the phrase, ‘horses for courses’, without realizing what it actually means. Why, and in what context, am I using the phrase will be crystal clear when I delve into the selection of the shooting contingent for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April this year.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) recently announced the list of shooters – 15 men and 12 women – for Gold Coast, but there were notable exclusions, namely, Amanpreet Singh, Shahzar Rizvi and Swapnil Kusale. All three are ranked in the top two in Men’s 50m Pistol, 10m Air Pistol and 50m Rifle Three Positions events respectively.
Logic says that the top two in each category should represent the country; shooting being a precision – as well as fickle – sport, only the best should represent the country, unlike in cricket or some other sport where all-rounders are highly valued.
The reason why these three of our country’s best shooters have been left out is the limited number of quotas for shooting this time. Quota places in shooting have been dwindling since Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The numbers came down in 2014 Glasgow, they have come down further in Gold Coast, and there will probably be no shooting sport in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
But as long as shooting sport is part of the Commonwealth Games curriculum, the best in the business should be sent for a maximum medal tally even if it means missing out on events where we don’t stand a chance for a podium finish.
With 27 quotas in total being allotted to shooting, the selectors had to pick 15 male shooters to compete in 9 shooting events. Had there been 18 quota places, all three — Amanpreet, Shazar and Swapnil –would have been in the team.
The three shooters have been replaced by Omprakash Mitharwal, Jitu Rai and Chain Singh who are ranked below Amanpreet, Shazar and Swapnil in free pistol, air pistol and three positions events respectively. But since Omprakash, Jitu and Chain were already making the cut in one of the two other events by virtue of being in top two, the selectors gave them the nod for a double start.
This ‘double start’ logic of the selectors, defies logic! When you are competing against the best, only the best should be sent, not ‘all-rounders’! Shooting, unlike cricket, is very different, and the reason is far too obvious – hitting the bull’s-eye for as long as you are at the firing line.
The biggest gainer in this situation is Chain Singh who even though ranks fourth in three positions has been picked along with Sanjeev Rajput. Chain has also been named in the prone event along with Gagan Narang. In prone, Chain ranks No. 1 and Gagan No.2.
Interestingly, Sanjeev who ranks No. 1 in three positions, ranks No. 3 in prone, a mere 0.20 points behind Gagan. Did the mathematicians at the NRAI miss Sanjeev’s name for a double start?
Fortunately, the task was much easier to select the 12 women shooters for eight events, thanks to Heena Sidhu, Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant and Shreyasi Singh making the cut in two events each on merit.
With the CWG quota for Indian shooters being slashed, had a certain Abhinav Bindra still been shooting 10m air rifle, he wouldn’t have been guaranteed a place in the Indian team. But if that’s the policy of the NRAI – to select all-rounders — shooters better hone that skill to avoid the axe.
Shimon Sharif is a shooter and the founder of indianshooting.com