The beauty of amateur sport is a lot about wholeheartedly praising the opponent. Of course, playing on a balmy winter afternoon helps to stay magnanimous.
“I got shaky towards the end, but I must say that my opponent played very well,” a West Bengal player was explaining to her team mate, stopping to applaud an opponent producing a fine effort on the synthetic greens at the Delhi Public School, RK Puram on the final day of the Third National Lawn Bowls Championships, sponsorsed by the Hindustan Times.
The overflowing sportsman spirit did not mean a lack of intensity in the competitions; it only suggested the early bonhomie in a sport that is striving to spread farther in India.
Jharkhand swept all the eight titles, demonstrating what how infrastructure provides a head start. Lawn bowls featured in the 2010 CWG, but at national level it is focused in Delhi, Ranchi and Assam. In Kolkata, it has been played for well over a century but on natural grass.
The tournament’s hero was the pint-sized Sunil Bahadur. The 35-year-old with the Jharkhand Armed Police took to the sport in 2008, on a synthetic hockey turf! The national games in Ranchi last year saw an indoor facility come up.
In April, he won the Asian title in Kuala Lumpur. “It can be boring if you don’t understand, but once you get involved, you realise how much focus you need to do well,” Bahadur smiled. He won the men’s single and inspired Jharkhand to win the triples.
Such is the state’s sway that it has happily seconded players to turn out for other states, especially Bihar. The women’s champion, Lovely Choubey, too sealed a double.
Anup Choudhury, an official from Assam, pointed to his 17-year-old daughter Tania featuring in the triples final to show the sport had a future. But infrastructure is the key.
Guwahati got its synthetic green when it hosted the 2009 national games. “It’s costly,” he explained. “A set of four balls costs around Rs. 26,000.”
Federation chief, Sunaina Kumari, is happy youngsters are taking up the sport and is hopeful sponsors will come in. Lt Gen (Retd) Bhopinder Singh, the Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar, gave away the prizes.