The eight-nation lawn bowling tournament gets underway from today in Delhi. The tournament is seen as a preparatory events for 2010 Commmonwealth Games to be held later this year in Delhi. The venue for lawn bowling at the Nehru Stadium complex was inaugurated on Monday evening. It will not only bring one of the oldest sports to the country but also attempt to raise awareness about a game played by over 50 countries across the world.
The five-day competition is a test event for the big occasion — the Commonwealth Games in October — and the Indian team is quietly confident of springing a surprise or two against some of the top teams in the world. “It may be unknown to people here but did you know that the second oldest bowling green outside England is in India (Kolkata, 1830),” says coach Richard Gale, an Australian who has been with the Indian team since December 2008.
“Besides India, the other teams in the fray are Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Malaysia.
While Malaysia are the current Asian champions, New Zealand are the world champions. So it will be a tough task for the Indians,” admits Gale, who has been coaching the Indian team since December 2008.
India have two teams of six members each in men and women who will be playing the singles, doubles, triples and fours. The tournament will be played on a league basis with the top two playing the finals.
In fact, this will be the first time India will be participating in the event at the Commonwealth Games. “It was only after the 2006 Melbourne Games that India seriously decided to build a team for the event, since it is one of the mandatory sports. But now, in the past one and a half years, we have made good progress,” said Pinky Kaushik, one of the Indian team members.
Gale is impressed with the Indian team. “We won India’s first ever medals in the sport at the 2009 Asia-Pacific championships in Kuala Lumpur (two bronze) and our first-ever gold at the 2009 Asian championships in Shenzen (1 gold and 6 bronze). “We have been preparing for the past 12 months non stop, including a month long camp in Australia last month. This team is hardworking and I hope to see them at least make the top four here,” Gale said.
The 12-member Indian team — six men and six women — was shortlisted from among the 30 probables selected during the CWG trials in Ranchi in February 2009. India will be playing in singles, pairs, triples and fours in the event on a round-robin format, with the two top teams qualifying for the semis. Teams ranked 3-6 will play each other in a knockout round to decide the other two semi-finalists.
“Immediately after this, a four-member team will be going for the World Cup in Australia (April 22-29). We are making sure that, while the rest of the teams may be far ahead on experience, the Indian team will get the best possible exposure ahead of the CWG,” said Sunaina Kumari, president of the Bowling Federation of India.