Badminton and table tennis teams got the rare gold (Column: Just Sport)

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The excellent television coverage of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has put even the highly popular Indian Premier League in shade. The Indian angle was so beautifully covered that most events were seen live unlike in the past. That is because Sony has three dedicated channels to cater to the viewers.

Almost all India events were shown live and even the repeat shows were there within hours. Both the anchors and experts were mostly on the ball with adequate knowledge of multi-discipline events, even if a couple of them are essentially cricket commentators.

The Games are not even at the half-way mark and India have done well to swell their medal tally to 11 gold, four sivler and six bronze. The gold standard has kept India at third position in the medal tally.

Of all the gold medals, three stand out, those in the mixed team event in badminton and the ones the men and women’s table tennis teams snatched from their more fancied rivals. Over the years there have been great individual performances in these disciplines, but they could not gell as a team to win the gold.

In badminton, it was not easy to put it across Malaysia and Singapore and in table tennis Singapore, England and Nigeria have been difficult hurdles.

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Shooters, weightlifters and boxers have had a good track record of winning medals at the Games whereas in team events it is not at all easy to stitch a winning combination. Even in hockey, India have tough competition what with Australia, England and Pakistan, though the neighboiurs are no long that potent now, leaving them to fight for silver.

In fact, a shooter winning gold has become customary at the Games and the women weightlifters have always done well to boost the tally of yellow metal in the first couple of days. If they don’t win gold then it is news.

The badminton gold has to be celebrated. Winning two matches before Saina Nehwal took the court for the fourth was never easy. The Malaysians had the redoubtable, even if ageing Lee Chong Wei and India are not exactly not known to be worldbeaters in doubles.

Kidambi Sriknath, who is going to be the first Indian World Number One when the new rankings are announced later this week, was expected to overpower Lee but the ease with which he pulled it off in straight games was not totally expected.

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Even if taking Srikanth and Saina’s victories for granted, the Indians still needed to win one of the three doubles and that was pretty difficult. The mixed doubles pair of experienced Ashwini Ponappa and 17-year-old rookie Satwik Rankireddy made it sure that India are almost there at the top of the podium by winning the first match of the rubber.

Strangely, Sania did not appear to be at the top of her game or even fitness as she was stranded at midcourt at crucial stages of the second and third games after taking the first with some comfort. With all her experience the World No 10 Indian put Soniia Chea in her place, some 12 rungs below her in the rankings, by reeling off points in a bunch to make it look a lot easier.

Satwik and Chirag Shetty lost the doubles to Olympic medal-winning pair of Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong to put a little more pressure on Sania. In the unlikely event of Saina losing her singles the rubber-deciding women’s doubles would have been nerve-wracker.

In table tennis, the women have punched abover their strength and Mannika Batra was the star. Her sensational victory over Singapore’s World No 4 Feng Tiwanwei in five pulsating games and that pave the way for India’s best-ever performance at the Games.

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The men had little difficulty in beating Nigeria in the final. It was a straight affair with 35-year-old Achanta Sharath Kamal leading the way. He steered the team to the final winning both his singles matches against Singapore in the semis and the doubles team of Gnanasekaran Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai clinching the crucial doubles.

It is the wieghtlifters who put India on the gold trail. Women Mirabai Chanu, Sanjita Chanu and Punam Yadav and Sathish Kumar Sivalingam and Ragala Venkat Rahul logged in five of these and by the end of the sixth day the shooters made the number 11.

At the last Games at Glasgow, Scotland, India had 15 gold, 30 silver and 19 bronze medals and as things stand, the signs are encouraging for India to better that tally of 64 medals by the time the athletes marcxh into the stadium for the closing ceremony.

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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