If you take away 2010 New Delhi, the benchmark for India at the Commonwealth Games has been 2002 Manchester when they crossed the 50-medal mark for the first time by ending up with 69 medals, 30 of them gold.
Before the Indians left for Glasgow, the expectations were pegged at somewhere between Manchester tally and 2006 Melbourne where they touched exactly 50. So, 64 should be taken as a reasonably happy figure, considering the turmoil the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has gone through over the last four years.
To be fair to the national sports federations, they have been going through their routine with the government lending more than a helping hand. They make all the plans for training, competition and international exposure. They scout around the world to get the best of coaches.
Unfortunately, no one seems to take seriously the 101 medals and the second position India achieved at home in 2010. The refrain is: “What’s so big doing it in your backyard.” That’s uncharitable. See how Scotland performed at home to finish fourth behind England, for whom also Glasgow is home, behind Australia and Canada and a rung above India.
India could have easily added a few more medals if only archery and tennis had not been dropped from the Games and also some sure medals from wrestling and shooting events.
Archery and tennis accounted for 12 medals in New Delhi. In shooting 18 events have been dropped, including pairs event, that meant 14 medals which India won in 2010 are gone straightaway.
In Greco-Roman wrestling, India had won eight medals. The shooters were not the same confident lot they were in Delhi, though they still logged in 17 medals, 13 less than what they achieved at home.
Yet, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt made sure that Indian wrestling continues to be on the upswing and, in all, five gold and six silver and two bronze were surely impressive. Vinesh Phogat and Babita Kumari brought in a pair of gold from the women’s section.
The last day for India at Glasgow was a replication of what happened in 2010. If Saina Nehwal won the women’s singles badminton gold, her Hyderabad-mate Parupalli Kashyap pulled off the men’s singles final. It was a great achievement for him as he won a singles gold for India 32 years after the great Syed Modi won it in 1982 in Brisbane.
If only P.V. Sindhu had not choked in her semi-finals Saturday, India could have added another medal just as R.M.V. Gurusaidatt who after beating top seed Chong Wei Feng in the quarter-finals lost his semis against Malaysian Derek Wong over three games.
Like Kashyap, discus thrower Vikas Gowda was another great athlete brought into focus when he won an athletics Gold after 56 years when Milkha Singh won the 440 yards at Cardiff in 1958. It is a different matter that the “Flying Sikh” narrowly missed winning bronze at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
There was also a flush of medals from weightlifting. The lifters won 12 medals that included three gold, four silver and five bronze.
If India lost the hockey final to Australia four years ago by a confidence-shattering 0-8 swamp, this time they reduced the margin to half, 0-4, but still could not score a goal. In the group game they at least struck twice.
Abhinav Bindra has shown that he is not for nothing among the world’s best by winning his 10m air rifle gold, his first at the quadrennial event. He had his ups and downs after the Beijing Olympic gold, but he showed his mettle.
The boxers performed remarkably well to make four finals but none could land gold and that was a big disappointment, particularly the loss of Vijender Singh who came back to international competitions working hard.
Spare a thought for all those officials who perform a full-time job in conducting age-group national championships, spot talent and help them come up. They never get the credit, they are only picked for wrong reasons like the corruption charges against the same officials who have also worked over the years to bring Indian sport to where it is.
Before someone pipes up to say the Indian sport has done well despite officials, there are officials and officials. There have been men who worked 24X7 going through the paper work impeccably and made sure India had a say at international forums, particularly at the continental level.
The officials include some of those charge-sheeted for their alleged misdeeds in the run-up to the New Delhi Games. Don’t forget, there was nothing wrong with the conduct of the Games and the performances of athletes. It was an exceptional showing.
The contribution of some of the officials cannot be discounted even if the government had opened up its purse strings for the training of the athletes. The athletes in private praise their federation officials, but the moment they face the camera they take the fashionable route of running them down!