Birmingham: A modest and little-known quartet has ensured the limelight for a sport barely discussed in India. After raising hopes of a gold medal with a surprise into the final of the Women’s Fours in Lawn Bowls at Victoria Park, they did not let the team or their newfound fans down.
On Tuesday, the foursome Rupa Rani Tirkey, Lovely Choubey, Pinki and Nayanmoni Saikia picked India’s first-ever medal in Lawn Bowls and India’s fourth medal of the 2022 Games by beating fancied South African team 17-10 in the final.
South Africa has a tradition in the sport, having won Women’s Fours gold medals in 1994, 1998 and 2014 and India had never medalled.
Lawn Bowls could hardly have figured in a prospective medal count ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, but things will be different from here on. Yet, it has been at the Commonwealth Games since 1930, with the 1966 Jamaica Commonwealth Games being an exception.
For the past 24-36 hours, Indian writers and commentators have been running all around, including searching on Google to find out more about the sport of Lawn Bowls, its rules and nuances.
The Indian team comprising the 38-year-old Lovely Choubey is a constable with Jharkhand Police, while Rupa Rani Tirkey, who, too, is from Ranchi, works in the state sports department. Tirkey also revealed that Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the former Indian cricket captain, who also lives in Ranchi, often comes to the place where they practise and has even tried his hand at the game.
Nayanmoni Saikia comes from a farming family in Assam and works in the state’s forest department, started out as a weightlifter, but turned to Lawn Bowling, following injuries during lifting.
Pinki, a sports teacher with DPS R K Puram in New Delhi, picked up the sport, when her school was one of the practice venues.
Indian began their journey at these Games with a 9-18 loss to the hosts England. However, wins in the other two league matches against Cook Islands (15-9) and against Canada (17-7) put them in the Knock-out quarter-final stage. India finished second to England in the Group,
In the quarter-final, India beat Norfolk Islands 17-9, while England were edged out by South Africa 12-11. New Zealand, who beat Botswana and Fiji who beat Northern Ireland were the other semi-finalists.
India then overcame New Zealand 16-13 in the semi-finals while South Africa, also a strong side, beat Fiji 18-14.
In the final on Tuesday, India who scored the first point of the competition in the first ‘end’ (also called a round) gradually extended their lead to 8-2 by the seventh end.
South Africa fought back to level the scores over the next two ends with a great display. They even went ahead to 10-8. India levelled matters in the 12th end after which it was 10-10.
The Indian women then moved full steam with some great rolls close to the ‘Jack’ the target ball, and won two, three and two points over the next three ‘ends’ to close the match at 17-10. Trailing 10-15 after 14 ends, South Africa were left with a very unrealistic target of five points to tie the match. Instead India won two more points to make it 17-10.
The victory has given India its fourth gold medal of the Games.