CHENNAI: The countdown has begun for shooters: 28 days it is for the upcoming ISSF World Cup to held in New Delhi. Never before has India staged a competition of this stature. Top shooters from around the world will be gunning for a good start to the season.
For Indian shooters, this is a massive opportunity to put recent doubts to bed and make home advantage count. After the Olympic debacle, a big change is likely in the composition of the team. Four, who were part of that barren outing, are likely to face the axe when the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) announces the team.
After recent selection trials in Pune, noted shooters like Ayonika Paul and Manavjit Singh Sandhu are likely to make way for new faces. According to the rankings put up by NRAI, Ayonika is well off the mark at 51st spot in an event dominated by Pooja Ghatkar, Meghna Sajjanar and Vineeta Bharawdaj. Apurvi Chandela, 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist, is placed fourth.
While there are clouds over the trio’s selection, pistol specialists Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu are tipped to lead the Indian challenge. Both were toppers in their respective events during the trials. “Yes, the rankings are there for everyone to see. We are taking everything into consideration and will announce the team very soon,” Rajeev Bhatia, NRAI secretary, told Express.
London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang, who featured in three competitions at the Rio Olympics, is No 1 in his pet event (50m rifle prone) but the Chennai-born shooter from Hyderabad is likely to miss out on 10m air rifle after the unheralded Ravi Kumar and Deepak Kumar outscored him. As things stand, the veteran is waiting on his fate. “The national body has not communicated anything regarding the selection. Let’s see what will happen,” the 33-year-old told Express from Pune.
Reigning national champ Sushil Ghaley is likely to line up alongside Narang. Armyman Chain Singh is expected to complete the team.
Former World Championship gold medallist (2010 Munich), Tejaswini Sawant is one of the standout names on the list. The Maharashtra shooter is No 1 in her pet event (50m rifle prone) and ranked second in 50m rifle 3 position.