After months of uncertainty, the big bore guns for Indian marksmen finally arrived on Sunday from England, leading to a collective sigh of relief for the two-member team and its support staff.
“Two rifles have finally arrived and the shooters have started training from today (Monday) onwards at the Kadarpur Range,” said National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) acting president, Avtar Singh Sethi. But with only five days to go for the Commonwealth Games, it's not an all-win situation for the shooters, as not even a single national camp has been organised.
Things almost bordered on the comical when the Sports Ministry, in all its collective wisdom, gave the CWG probables and their coach, TS Dhillon, the nod to travel to England for a 10-day camp to train with guns borrowed from English marksmen. It's another thing that they did not get the requisite visas, forcing them to cancel the trip.
The Ministry had also cleared the deck to fly the government observer for shooting sport to England to shortlist the team following trials. “The government had decided to send the team and the observer to England earlier this month, which I had strongly opposed,” said Sethi.
The interminable delay could perhaps cost India a medal.
The decision to procure the full-bore ammunition and rifles was taken at the same time some three months back. And though the ammunition arrived two months back, the rifles arrived on Sunday. Initially, the Ministry had ordered four rifles, but then reduced the number to two. “We got 15,000 rounds of ammunition for training, but couldn't use it because of non-availability of rifles. Now, we will use it to prepare our team for the next Games,” said an NRAI official. A total of two gold medals — one individual and one team — are at stake.