It’s a departure from convention and one that has triggered quite a tremor. For the first time ever, an Indian boxing team has been picked without formal trials, a convention well-established and followed all across world.
“During my amateur days, I don’t recall a single instance of trials not taking place. It’s a well-established system that is followed all across the world. Trials are always good to assess who is in best shape immediately before an event,” Vijender Singh, India’s first and only male boxer to have won an Olympic medal, told PTI.
The team in question is the one picked for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and the criteria has been a points system put in place last year before the men’s National Championships.
“Looking at the entire process, I wonder what would I have done before the 2006 Commonwealth Games. I had the likes of Mohammed Ali Qamar and Balbir Singh ahead of me and had it not been for trials, I would have never been able to make the CWG squad,” recalls Jitender Kumar, who claimed a bronze at the 2006 CWG in Melbourne.
Jitender, the then National bronze-medallist, had beaten 2002 CWG gold-winner Mohammed Ali Qamar and Balbir, the reigning world youth champion, in the trials to make the cut.
“If a similar system was in place then, I would have never made any breakthrough. I wonder how things work,” said the former Olympic quarterfinalist, who now plies his trade in the professional circuit.
Big names left out
The boxers left out of CWG squad include the likes of Shiva Thapa, the first Indian to clinch three back-to-back Asian medals and among a select group of four Indians to have won a World Championship medal.
Thapa’s points tally was lower than Manish Kaushik, who upstaged him at the Nationals and the India Open.
Also missing is 2014 CWG silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra despite logging more points than the man who has been preferred over him – Vikas Krishan.
To Vikas’ credit, he claimed a gold and the best boxer trophy at the only event he competed in after the world championships last August.
“I am not comfortable with this idea of not having trials. Let’s see how things work out for us after this,” said Vijender.
Then there is the case of Gaurav Bidhuri, the lone Indian to claim a medal at the world championship last year. He is out of contention after a long-standing back injury forced him out of action after the world championships.
The point to ponder here is that Bidhuri had not even qualified for the World Championship and made it only on the back of a last-minute wildcard, a testament to how much of a factor luck can be in sport.
Only performance in Gold Coast will tell whether the BFI stands vindicated.
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