India is likely to field a depleted relay squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games as the names of National record holder for the men’s 400 metres Muhammed Anas and quarter-miler MR Poovamma are not part of Athletics Federation of India’s provisional list for the relay teams.
The women’s team is likely to be hamstrung with Asian Athletics Championships champion Nirmala Sheoran missing from the camp since the marquee event and the talented Jisna Mathews not competing at the ongoing Federation Cup, which has been made a mandatory event for selection.
Without the services of the two most experienced quarter-milers, it is likely to be a young team that will head to Gold Coast with the likes of Jauna Murmu and Sonia Baishya likely to lead the charge, AFI sources said.
Apart from Anas and Poovamma, Anilda Thomas and Anu Raghavan are also not part of the provisional list.
Only campers will go
Sources said, all these athletes have been left out as the AFI has decided not to pick anyone who were not part of the national camps.
The 4X400 metres relay is one of the possible medal event for India at the CWG and Asian Games and the AFI does not want a repeat of the several baton drops and disqualifications that have plagued Indian relay teams in the past year.
Anas, who had shattered his own national record clocking 45.32 metres at the Indian Grand Prix in 2017, had insisted on training with his coach, P B Jaikumar, of the Kerala Sports Council and not in the national camp. As a result, the AFI felt that there would be a ‘coordination’ problem.
“We shifted their base to Trivandrum to accommodate them. We even told them to bring their coach (Jaikumar) and participate in the national camp so that the relay team could practise as one. But they didn’t listen to us,” said a AFI source.
Tokyo 2020 the final aim
In a year featuring the Asian and the Commonwealth Games, this is a significant decision to be taken by the AFI in an event where India’s depth in quarter-milers has seen them emerge as a significant force to be reckoned with, at the continental level.
AFI secretary CK Valson was firm about the decision, “We have to explain to the government why there have been so many baton drops over the last year. It is their money and they have a right to know. If the relay athletes are not in sync, is there a point in sending them?”
Incidentally, it was Poovamma who had earlier claimed in an interview to the The Field that the relay team had barely practised together in the build-up to the Rio Olympics. “Prior to the Olympics, everyone was training individually with their personal coaches. We came together a week prior to the Games,” she had said.
Valson claimed that the AFI’s ultimate target was not the CWG or the Asian Games but the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “We have a young team with the likes of Sonia (Baishya), Amoj (Jacob), Sarita (Gayakwad). We’re not telling them to get us a medal immediately at the CWG. These things take time and we’re happy to wait it out. Even if they don’t win a medal this year, no problem. Tokyo 2020 should be the ultimate goal for us.”
Apart from the aforementioned names, Amoj Jacob, Mohammed Kunhu, Sachin Roby are expected to be part of the men’s relay team while Hima Das, Saritaben Gayakwad, Debashree Mazumdar will be lining up next to and Sonia.