Beijing Olympic Games gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and world record holder Gagan Narang will be the cynosure of all eyes as the famed Indian shooting squad kicks off its campaign in the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The duo will represent the hosts in the 10m air rifle event, before world champion Tejeswani Sawant, who had won two gold medals in air rifle in the previous edition in Melbourne, and Lajja Goswami take a shot at glory in the 50m 3 position event later in the day. In between, Deepak Sharma and Omkar Singh will try their luck in 50m free pistol event, while Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed will compete in 25m pitol for women.
"Gagan and Abhinav are two top class performers and going by their past records, we should not have much difficulty winning a medal in air rifle," said national coach Sunny Thomas, before adding, "But shooting is very unpredictable, so we just can't sit back and predict who will win or will not."
Narang is a world record holder - he scored 600 out of 600 during his unparalleled record-winning feat - in air rifle event.
Indian shooting has been on the ascendancy ever since the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, where the team won 24 medals, before bettering the mark four years later in Melbourne, winning a record 27 medals.
The bunch, that overflows with talent, is raring to do one better this time around, but, according to Thomas, it takes years and years of hard work to improve.
"We know that India's best chance of winning maximum number of medals is shooting but the rising expectations are bound to put a lot of pressure on our shooters.
"We won 24 medals in Manchester but it took us four years to make it 27 and it will take a Herculean effort to make it 28 this time," Thomas, who has been at the helm of Indian shooting for the past 17 years, told PTI.
Thomas might be a bit skeptical going into the competition, but he certainly is not low on confidence.
With the likes of Bindra, world champions Sawant and Manavjit Singh, world record holder in double-trap Ronjan Sodhi and the man who has won the maximum number of World Cup medals for the country, Narang, in the line-up, Thomas has, at his disposal, a top-fligt team.
"From five medals - three gold and two silver - in 1994 to 24 in Manchester and then 27 in Melbourne, it's a huge achievement. It's difficult when you look at those numbers but it should not be a big problem, winning more medals than the previous two editions. I'm confident that our shooters will rise to the occasion in front of home crowd," the shooting coach said.