Updated: December 10, 2021 6:55:03 am
Four months after the Olympic debacle, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has decided to end the contracts of all the 24 national coaches that were involved with the Indian shooting team. The sporting body took the decision in a bid to revamp the structure before the start of the 2022 season.
However, the NRAI, while looking to hire new coaching staff, will also review the role of the shooters as well.
“Whatever we have learnt from the past, specifically the Tokyo Olympics, we felt there are some blanks that need to be filled. We have to look at other parameters as to where we failed and then provide our shooters what’s needed to achieve excellence,” said NRAI secretary general Kanwar Sultan Singh to this paper.
“We have our expert committee, we’ll look into it, we’ll asses it. The ones that are fit enough (will be taken again) and the ones that don’t fit the bill will go – be it shooter or coach. We’re in the process of finalising who requires what, when, where. The entire parameters will be looked into, it’s not just the domain of coaches.”
At the Olympics, the Indian team had been hyped as medal-contenders across different events. There were 20 possible medals in the offing for the Indian team, but only Saurabh Chaudhary, in the 10m men’s air pistol event, managed to reach the final of his discipline. It was in Tokyo – while the shooting events were still on – when NRAI president Raninder Singh first spoke of an ‘overhaul’ of the team.
“We are going to see an overhaul of the Indian coaching staff for sure,” he said at the time. “Everybody will be evaluated. Even I will be evaluated as president of the NRAI. No one is indispensable.”
Raninder was later re-elected to his post.
Friction between coaches
Ahead of the Olympics, the NRAI had sent the entire shooting contingent to Croatia for over two months in order for the team to train and compete in build-up events. The move was made in order to keep the athletes safe from the Covid-19 pandemic that had been wreaking havoc in India.
Former Asian Games gold medallist Ronjan Singh Sodhi welcomed NRAI’s decision to revamp the coaching staff, asserting new coaches be hired who are not affiliated with any academy or player.
“I feel these coaches (had) their vested interests. There is scope for nepotism because somebody is the coach of some academy or the personal coach of some player. There might have been some tug-of-war (over athletes),” he said.
At the same time, Sodhi asserts that the athletes too need to be receptive to instructions.
“They have to be mindful and understand that when you’re a part of the national team, you (listen) to the national coach,” he said.
“Today you have Rahul Dravid as the national (cricket) coach, so you can’t tell him you have somebody at the Wankhede Stadium (giving instructions). What you do at home, you do at home. At the national camps, when you’re representing the country, you listen to the national coach.”
Keeping this friction in mind, Kanwar Sultan claims the NRAI is looking for coaches who can work together with the personal coaches, under a structure the national body will set.
“We’d like to have something that is comfortable, convenient, and harmonious for the shooter. The personal coaches and chief coaches have to be in tandem and adhere to the discipline and parameters that are laid down (by the NRAI). The interactions with players need to be informed to us – the information that can be passed on from personal coaches to national coaches. Whatever is required, even if it’s the assistance of the personal coach, we will look into it.”
Foreign coaches required
Moving forward though, Sodhi, the winner of two silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, believes that foreign coaches will be required to guide the national team. This thought is supported by the trend India has followed at the Olympics.
Each of the four medals India has won in shooting at the Games were won by athletes trained by foreign coaches. Rajyavardhan Rathore (silver, Athens 2004) was trained by Australian coach Russel Mark, Abhinav Bindra (gold, Beijing 2008) was coached by Germany’s Gabriele Buhlmann, Gagan Narang (bronze, London 2012) had Kazakh Stanislas Lapidus by his side, and Vijay Kumar (silver, London 2012) was coached by Russian Pavel Smirnov.
“We (Indian coaches) don’t have the acumen to train at the moment,” Sodhi said.
“Now if Abhinav… but he doesn’t want to coach. He doesn’t mentor people. Gagan has Guns for Glory (academy), but does he coach anybody personally, does he stand behind someone day in day out and train them?
“And they have seen it all. The coaches we have today, how many are Olympians, and if they are, what have they achieved? If you ask me to coach, I cannot, I don’t have the acumen. Obviously, you need foreign coaches.”
Kanwar Sultan however remained tight-lipped about the process of finding new coaches, claiming the body is maintaining an “open-mind.”
“We don’t want to rush into anything. It’s going to be a well thought of, examined and informed decision,” he added.
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