2016 South Asian Games: What to expect
A look ahead to the 12th edition of the South Asian Games.
The 12th edition of the South Asian Games, to be hosted by the twin North-Eastern cities of Guwahati and Shillong will kick-off on Friday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in the Assam capital to open the Games, that would see some of the best from Asia compete against between the 6th of February and the 16th of February.
The Games will see as many as 26 sports, 17 of them will be held in Guwahati and 9 in Shillong. This will be the third time that the country will be playing host to the Games, after staging it in 1987 in Kolkata and 1995 in Chennai.
Due to assembly elections, the Games couldn't be held in New Delhi in 2012 and it is an event which India have dominated over the years. The country has won a total of 1728 medals, that include 900 Golds, 542 Silvers and 286 Bronze. Pakistan are second with 1022 medals and Sri Lanka are third with 928 medals.
However, the lead-up to the Games haven't been as rosy as you might think it would. A strong looking Indian badminton team, that was to be led by Saina Nehwal, has been depleted because of the withdrawal of herself and Parupalli Kashyap and it is now up to the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, P V Sindhu, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa to match if not overtake India's tally of 7 Gold medals that won in both the Men and Women disciplines in Dhaka in 2010.
If badminton doesn't India the medals, then there is a strong chance that shooting would. For a quite an impressive field of Indian shooters, consisting of the likes of Gagan Narang, Gurpreet Singh, Vijay Kumar, Chain Singh, Apurvi Chandela and several others will form a mighty competent line-up, across all disciplines and will be looking to go for Gold.
Despite the last-minute pull-out of Dipika Pallikal, the Indian squash team also seems to be a good bet for India to get a decent tally of medals. Joshna Chinappa, Sunanya Kuruvilla and 17-year-old Akanksha Salunbkhe will form the Women’s team while Men's squad will consist of Saurav Ghosal, Harinder Pal Sandhu, Kush Kumar and Ravi Dixit.
A 68-member strong athletics team will also feature in the Games with the likes of Inderjeet Singh, who had such an amazing 2015 leading the way. Giving him company will be the likes of Om Prakash Karhana, MR Poovamma etc. India had a very successful time in athletics in the 2010 edition where they won 29 medals that included 10 golds, 11 silvers and 8 bronze.
India will also have a strong 16-member contingent in archery with the likes of Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Laishram, Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan etc looking to bring Gold for the country.
Due to their participation in the Hockey India League, a majority of the first team Indian players won't feature in the South Asian Games and in their absence, it provides the likes of Gurbaj Singh,Manpreet Singh Mangal Singh Chahal, skipper Mandeep Antil, the young Vikas Dahiya among others with a good opportunity to stake a claim in the first team.
The Women's team will see midfielder Ritu Rani lead a team consisting the likes of Neha Goyal, Jaspreet Kaur and Preeti Dubey among others.
India will have a team in basketball as well, but unfortunately, there will be no recognition for the competition from the FIBA because of “unacceptable interference by the Indian Olympic Association(IOA) in the affairs of the Basketball Federation of India(BFI)”.
Like hockey, a lot of major Indian players are involved with the I-League as far as football is concerned. And so in such a case, the squad will consist of U23 players with the likes of one of the best young defenders in the setup, Sandesh Jhingan, Lallialzuala Chhangte, Jeje Lalpekhlua etc forming the squad.
The Indian Women's team has a much more balanced look to it with the likes of Aditi Chauhan, Prameshwari Devi and the veteran Bembem Devi etc looking to put up a good show.
In totality, the upcoming 10-days promises to be an exciting affair and hopefully, newer talent emerges for Indian sport from this event.