Over the last few months, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra has engaged himself in a game of brinksmanship with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). He upped the rhetoric last week when he said that the Commonwealth Games itself is “a waste of time and money”. Such comments, or posturing, are made without discussing the core issue—absence of shooting at the 2022 Games—with athletes and the Indian government.
Batra’s larger point about the credibility of the CWG because of the lack of competition looks like a desperate throw of the dice to pressurise the CGF into including shooting. If this logic is to be applied across the board, then Indian athletes shouldn’t be sent to other inferior events like the South Asian Games and intra-continental events. However, that is not how elite competitions work. Athletes and/or teams willingly test themselves in low-level events to experiment with new techniques or field youngsters to see if they can handle pressure situations.
The only bit of substance in Batra’s outburst is that the standards of the CWG can’t be compared with what athletes have to achieve to win medals at the top level. The CWG doesn’t serve as an Olympic qualifying event either. Is it worthwhile to spend so much money and resources on the Games? But this reason and the fact that not a single Indian is in an influential post in the various CGF committees may not be enough reason to justify a total boycott of the CWG.
Like the CGF pointed out, India voted to keep shooting as an optional sport when the matter came up in 2015. And considering that the athletes are also not in favour of a boycott, it’s better to wait until November 14, when CGF and the IOA try to reach a common ground. As it stands, shooting will not be a part of the programme but the CGF will try and assign India leadership roles within the Commonwealth to stop them from making a radical decision. Will the CGF be able to pacify Batra & Co? Only time will tell.