When Abhinav Bindra tweets on matters closest to his heart — shooting, that is — there is no way one can ignore it.
The stature he has acquired over the years, both in the world of competitive shooting and sports administration – he is currently the chairman of the International Shooting Sport Federation’s Athletes’ Committee – is something which automatically lends weight to each and every word he speaks or writes.
So, when the Beijing Olympic Games gold medallist, and the only one to come closest to winning India a medal in shooting at the Rio Olympic Games, tweeted about the way the National Championship were being organised in Pune, it was a reminder that things could be done more professionally for shooting sport in the country.
Bindra’s anguish was over the unimaginably large number of wild cards distributed by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) for the 60th National Shooting Championship. He said in his tweet, “A championship which should be aspirational has sadly become a joke.”
Bindra was reacting to a report published in a top newspaper of the country, which pointed to the flip side of giving freebies – or wild cards – to shooters, albeit at a price.
The rifle association decided to award wild cards to around 600 shooters for the 60th National Shooting Championship, which is a record and has resulted in the number of shooters competing going way beyond 4,500.
The general practice followed by the NRAI till now was that shooters advanced to the National Championship – the pinnacle of domestic competition — after achieving a Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS) at either the zonal qualifiers or the G.V. Mavlankar All India Shooting Championships.
However, this time around, the NRAI awarded wild cards to around 600 shooters who had fallen short of the MQS, and they could compete after depositing Rs 5,000 with the national federation.
This is also the first time that the NRAI accepted the Rs. 5,000 deposit from each of the wild card entrants.
However, there is a saving grace for those wild card entrants who shot the MQS. They will be refunded the money if they managed that threshold score!
While it has seriously inconvenienced the serious shooters who had to wait for their turn to compete till midnight, it has also reportedly not gone down well with many top guns, who feel wild card shooters could adversely affect their performance/scores.
It has been seen in shooting that professional shooters tend to shoot lower scores if they stand in the vicinity of wild cards as the normally low scores of ‘novices’ upsets the morale and rhythm of the big guns. And, in a sport like shooting where a fraction of a point separates the winner from the loser, it is all the more important that the NRAI should have been more discreet in handing out wild cards.
Who would now want to go through the rigours of the zonals and GV Mavlankar championships, when a few thousand rupees could actually buy amateur shooters a berth to compete in the National Championship?
Time for some soul-searching and paying heed to Bindra’s words of wisdom!