Let’s be done with the most shocking bit first.
Indians claim this sport was played on its soil since times immemorial; they insisted and succeeded in getting it included in the Asian Games schedule; their teams claimed gold each time from 1990; they innovated for the sake of making it exciting for TV audiences, and now, its men’s team lost to Iran and settled for a bronze medal.
Many of us have only read about the trauma of watching India lose its grip on the Olympic Games hockey gold medal at Rome in 1960. It is hard to imagine the public inquisition that this kabaddi team will have to face in this day and age. It is almost as if everyone would expect India to turn up at the Asian Games and win gold.
Not anymore. Then again, the warning signs were evident not just when India lost to Korea in the league stage earlier this week but also four years ago in Incheon when India edged out Iran in the men’s final by a mere two points. Along the way, the inability of the sport to retain focus on its primary contests and its eagerness to embrace a gimmicky version would have contributed, too.
To be honest, the intention was not to begin writing on Thursday about the massive 18-27 defeat and its ramifications. Or, even mention badminton ace PV Sindhu’s hour-long search for a winning sequence against a little-known player from Vietnam. Or, lament the Indian men and women recurve archers’ inability to get to the semifinals.
Then again, it would be tough to ignore the celebrated and decorated Deepika Kumari shooting a 6 and being unable to bounce back in her pre-quarterfinal match against an opponent who is ranked only one spot below her on the World Archery charts; or even the missed opportunities that Atanu Das had in his men’s quarterfinal at the Archery Field.
The intention was simple. To celebrate the sight of the 15-year-old Shardul Vihan standing on the podium, watching the Indian flag rise, after he won the double trap shooting silver medal for India. The earnest desire was to start speaking about the assembly of teenagers, fearless, believing and delivering medals for India.
Through the day, he kept shooting flying target after flying target with aplomb, lining up his shots as if he had been training all his life. Come to think of it, the 15-year-old from Shamli in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district has been shooting for a long time under former international Anwar Sultan’s tutelage.
The deliberate manner in which he prepared for each twin-shot had the seniors watching with disbelief. The simplicity and maturity with which he approached the task of gunning the targets down was a delight to watch for those who have spent years tracking shot gun shooting. Vihan will be one of the last double trap winner in Asian Games history, the event being discontinued.
There was another teenager who gave his best, sinking his own national record twice through the day in the 200m backstroke swimming competition. Srihari Nataraj continued his relentless pursuit of national records first by improving his mark to 2:02.97 in the heats and then coming up with a 2:02.83 effort in finishing sixth in the final.
How wonderful would it be to converse just about Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan’s entry into the men’s doubles tennis final as well as Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s progress into the semifinals and not bring into focus Ankita Raina’s exit from the women’s singles semifinals. Then again, the vagaries of sport are such and it is hard to ignore the not so happy tidings either.
It would be apt to speak about 21-year-old Ajay Singh’s impending rise as India’s premier 77kg class weightlifter. He lifted a career best total of 327kg to take fifth spot in a competition in which the bronze medal went at 341kg. And not about Sathish Sivalingam who lifted 314kg on Thursday, below the 317kg he had tallied in winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal when in pain.
The idea was to initiate a discussion about 17-year-old golfer Aadil Bedi’s hot first round that saw him return a card of three-under 69 and lead the Indian team to second place in the standings after the first day. It was not to mention star rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal’s inexplicable lack of fight after being overtaken or the running out of gas on the home stretch by the Double Sculls pair.
Beyond the palest shadow of doubt, a lot of Indian athletes would escape scrutiny on a day when the unthinkable happened for the second time in the Asian Games kabaddi tournament and the much-vaunted Indian team lost. It would be a pity if we ignore the wonderful efforts of a number of Indian athletes, some young and others experienced, giving off their best for team and country.
There is no doubt that the knives will be out for the kabaddi team, the choices made by the federation and its selectors coming under the microscope. However, let us leave that aside until it actually happens and douse ourselves in the aura of the teens who know no fear and indulge in creating fantasies beyond belief, sharing the unadulterated taste of their success.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 23:27:03 IST