The Indian women lawn bowlers who conquered the English nobility’s very own game on the English turf at Birmingham seem to have inspired the script of the blockbuster Bollywood flick Chak de! India, starring Superstar Shahrukh Khan in a reverse timeline.
With nothing to lose, the Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia, and Rupa Rani Tirkey went into the rink at Victoria Park against the better-rated South Africans in the final only to stun the Proteas with the last ball rolling for the historic Commonwealth Games gold medal.
Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia, and Rupa Rani Tirkey with team manager Anju Luthra
The story of the Indian lawn Bowler girls is so close to the script of Chak de; it looks like many real-life moments they faced have been picked up from the film.
The four women rose from anonymity and many Indians knew about their game for the first time when they won the gold in the recently held Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Their achievement comes without even a mentor or a coach and is therefore the rarest of the rare success stories of any international sports event.
“Yes, we attended a four-month coaching-cum-selection camp in New Delhi in March. However, our game has been returning without a medal from the Commonwealth Games since 2010, we were probably denied a coach by the authorities,” Nayanmoni Saikia told Awaz - The Voice during an exclusive interaction here.
Nayanmoni Saikia, Tania Choudhary and Mridul Bora (Men's team) being received at Guwahati Airport on return from CWG games
“Most of us had gained experience in the international events and we continued to practice. We discussed every minute detail among ourselves and formulated strategies. Some of those worked out. It was our initial exposure during our preliminary coaching under Australian coach Richard Gale in 2007-08 and that helped us elevate our game.”
The girls were clear in their minds that they have to bag a medal for the country. They knew that if they miss it this time, the sports of law bowl may die a natural death in India. The Indian women lawn bowl team practiced on the synthetic green but in England, they were supposed to roll the ball on grass. In London, the Bowling Federation of India managed to arrange a four-day acclimatisation camp for the women on grass green at a private club.
They soon faced their next challenge: in Birmingham, the team realized that the balls to be used in the XII CWG were not the same quality as they were used to at home for practice and competitions.
Probably, the Indian habit of adapting quickly helped them in conquering a very British sport on the country's soil.
It may be mentioned that the Lawn bowls is a sport of the British nobility and a core game in the Commonwealth Games charter. In India, it was introduced in 2007 at the 33rd National Games, Guwahati.
Nayanmoni Siakia and her family with Assam Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sarma
Nayonmoni has many people to thank for making the team win a gold medal for India. “I should be grateful to the Bowling Federation of India, the Lawn Bowling Association Assam for giving us immense technical support right all through. The NTOs (national technical officials) and ITOs (international technical officials) guided us at every step. Team manager Anju Luthra’s vast experience also helped us.”
Nayanmoni and her team members have returned to the arena to prepare for the 36th National Games. She has been a member of the Indian team for the Commonwealth games in 2010, 2014, and 2018. “However, we always missed a medal by a whisker. Although this time, we were sure of winning at least a silver, when we were trailing by a single point at the fag end of the finals, we took a timeout and resolved among ourselves that we are not going to miss the gold this time by one single point.
“Rupa asked me to roll my ball as if I was the skip and I did it accordingly, which brought us a point closer to the title. When her (Rupa Rani Tirkey’s) turn came, she did the skip’s job with tremendous precision to trigger frenzied celebrations across a nation of 130 crores.”
The women’s feat was followed by the Indian men also bagging the silver in men’s fours at the same green.