CWG 2022: Indian lawn bowlers hope to gain enough recognition as MS Dhoni in India
India is assured of a silver medal in the lawn bowl in the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The players hope to get enough recognition in the country as MS Dhoni.
Legendary former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni put Ranchi on the world map. But, despite belonging to the same city, India's first-ever lawn bowls medallists in Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2022 have no interest in going global. Recognition in India is going to be enough. Securing a comeback win over New Zealand in the women's fours semis, the quartet of Lovely Choubey, Rupa Rani Tirkey, Pinki and Nayanmoni Saikia could hardly believe their accomplishment. The 'leader' of the pack, 38-year-old Lovely, is a constable with Jharkhand Police, whereas Rupa, who hails from Ranchi, works in the sports department.
Pinki accidentally picked up the sport during the 2010 Delhi CWG and is a sports teacher with DPS RK Puram in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Nayanmoni comes from an agricultural family in Assam and works in the state's forest department. "This is as big as the Olympics since lawn bowls are not part of the Summer Games. We lost the medal by a point four years ago, but this time, we have made up for that by making history. I hope this effort gives us some recognition," Lovely, featuring in her third CWG, briefed PTI.
Lovely used to be 100 metres sprinter while her teammate Nayanmoni was a weightlifter. Both moved to a 'slow' sport like lawn bowls due to injuries. "I got into Lawn Bowls in 2008 after leaving athletics. I won ₹70,000 in a national event and told myself I could continue with this," said Lovely, who, alongside Rupa, trains at the Ranchi's RK Anand Bowls Green Stadium.
"All you need is a green field and ball, but the sport is not as easy as it appears. There is no age limit as well. The balls are not made in India. They have to be imported from Australia and England. The facilities are effectively non-existent. Hopefully, that will change after this," says Lovely.
While training in Ranchi, the few visitors they get include great cricketing legend Dhoni, who, as per Lovely, "knows a lot about her sport." "Dhoni sir knows our coach in Ranchi and has come to see us at the greens twice over the years. We have a Dewri Mata temple close by. When he goes there, he comes to see us as well. We had a chat about the sport as well. He said he goes to play Lawn Bowls whenever he is in Australia," remembered Lovely.
Indian team manager Anju Luthra, who has been part of the team's harrowing journey over the past decade, was emotional after the semis. She eventually has something to oppose the sceptics. "I am like their mother. I have been attached to them since 2009. It's a long journey," she said.
"They're like my daughters, my family. Getting a medal is important because when we return to India, the federation always says 'what have you done?', so we want to prove that we are not less than any other game," added Luthra. Having featured in every CWG since 1930, lawn bowls are a crucial part of the multi-sporting event. Australia and England happen to be the most dominant teams in the game.
(With inputs from PTI)