There are not many who are familiar with lawn bowls as a competitive sport in India. There are fewer still who are aware and yet consider the sport to be more of a simple weekend passtime, which has somehow found its way into the Commonwealth Games. They can however, be forgiven for their naivety. Lawn bowls is anything but a simple sport.
Challenging the odds
Ask 15-year-old Tania Choudhary, a member of the women’s contingent that will represent the host country in the sport during CWG. She feels a sport that requires a player to constantly think and translate mental strategies into skill and physical stamina is harder than some others which require brute force. “The objective sounds simple. To throw a ball such that it lands as close to the target ball as possible without touching it. But there are endless factors that determine success. Trajectory, ball angle, strength of throw, distance, curves. It is an exhausting game.”
Exhausting as it may be, it is a sport Tania is passionate about and constantly works towards excelling in. “I saw the sport being played in an introductory camp a few years ago. I decided to give it a try and have been hooked since,” she says even as she blames the addictive character of the sport for her obsession.
Transforming an inconspicuous presence
The sport itself was introduced by British expatriates and clubs like the Royal Calcutta Golf Club have been the flag bearers for lawn bowls over the years.
The Indian team though, began its official training in the sport less than 3 years ago. Coach Richard Gale feels the entire squad has come a long way since, and can still improve by leaps and bounds from its current position. “We have some medal potential in the women’s side. They have constantly evolved their game proving my first impression, that there is no dearth of talent in India, correct,” he says, unable to hide a confident smile.
The Australian says the facilities provided for CWG preparations have further improved the team’s playing ability. “We began at the grassroots level. The initial assistance from officials was satisfactory but has since then it has improved tremendously. For example, the competition arena at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is as good as any in the world.”
An uncommon leap
While the recent developments have been lauded by the players as well as the team officials, the federation managing the sport in the country (Bowling Federation of India) came into existence as far back as 1985. It is obvious then, that it is hosting CWG that finally gave the much needed impetus to the sport.
“From what I have seen in my time spent in the country, India lacks a strong sporting culture. It is a major reason for certain sports stagnating here. CWG is a perfect platform for cultivating it and a great impetus for all sports,” says Gale when asked about certain sections in the country questioning the need for hosting an event of CWG’s magnitude.
Time to strike gold
Little wonder then that come October, the carpeted greens of the lawn bowls complex will see Indian players in no small measure of sporting confidence as they take on some of the best teams in the world which bank on a rich bowling lineage.