It was supposed to be an Indian Premier League-style event for shooting. Lots of glamour, prize-money, an international sponsor, top players and most importantly, a platform to bring India's world-class shooters to the people, live.
Unfortunately, the Walther Cup — the brainchild of the premier German gun manufacturer popularised by James Bond and Shimon Sharif, the founder of TopGun Sports — was shot down even before it took off.
Why? The National Rifle Association of India chose to say, “No”.
Offering a prize money of Euro 3000 (approximately Rs 2,11,000), the event was to be held at Balewadi Complex in Pune in the second week of October. “Besides offering the richest prize-money ever in India, the other big advantage of the event was that Indian shooters would have availed of advice of Walther experts who were going to provide free service and repairs to rifles and pistols,” said Sharif, who has been a national-level marksman.
Some of the biggest names in pistol and rifle shooting had already confirmed their participation for the event. But considerable confusion reigned when the NRAI ostensibly warned off shooters from taking part.
“We had approached the NRAI seeking support and approval for the competition. They insisted on a letter from Walther. The company sent the requisite papers to NRAI but did not get any response. It's interest started waning thereof,” insists Sharif. However, a letter written by Walther managing director Manfred Worz assured TopGun of its willingness to sponsor the event subject to a support letter from NRAI.
“In the meantime, NRAI tried its best to destroy the event by making an announcement at the ongoing camp at Pune that those participating in it would be barred from representing the country. It also announced the cancellation of the event two days ago even though it has no authority to do so,” he said.
It seems the sponsor has also had enough of these shenanigans as Worz wrote to NRAI on September 23: “We as main sponsors didn't expect to have such great problems with the Indian organising structure for sports shooting.”
NRAI secretary Baljeet Singh Sethi is away in Almaty (Kazakhstan) for the Asian Championships and could not be contacted. Vice-president Avtar Singh Sethi said such decisions could not be taken in haste. “The governing body of the NRAI decides on such issues,” he said, refusing to elaborate.