The Women’s Fours of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayan Moni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey made history for India by winning the country’s maiden gold medal in lawn bowls in the Commonwealth Games at Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa, here on Tuesday.
The scratch combine that is playing together for the first time fought against all odds to overcome many hurdles on the greens and off it too as it defeated South Africa 17-10 in the final to put India on the top stage of the the little-known sport of lawn bowls.
The Indian team, that had secured its place in the final by beating a strong combine from New Zealand on Monday, took early lead (8-2) in the final only to see the South Africans come roaring back and tie the scores at 10-10.
But the team, in which Lovely Choubey plays as lead, Pinki as second, Nayan Moni Saikia as third and Rupa Rani Tirkey as skip came up with a brilliant performance in the final few turns of the 15-ends match, claiming back the lead and opening up a 15-10 margin going into the fifteenth and final turn.
The Indians kept their nerves in the final moments, tucked the jack into safety and not allowed the South Africans to get their bowls close to the centrepiece and win the shots. Showing nerves of steel, Nayan Moni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey, came up with two superb, measured bowls on their last turns each and did not allow South Africa the opportunity to further reduce the margin.
The Indians bagged the two points from that end and clinched the final 17-10, winning the gold medal relegating the South African combine of Thabete Muvhjango, Bridget Calitz, Esme Kruger and Johanna Snyman to silver medal. The New Zealand Fours won the bronze medal while Fiji had to be satisfied with fourth place after losing to New Zealand in the bronze medal deciding match.
“We are absolutely ecstatic on winning the gold medal. WEe have come close to winning a medal in Commonwealth Games a couple of times but fell short by a point or two. This time we were determined from the start that we will never allow such situation to develop,” said Lovely Choubey after the final.
Rupa Rani Tirkey, the team’s skip, who uses the heavily biased balls to swing them closer to the jack and win the match for India against New Zealand on Monday, said they kept talking to each other constantly, encouraging each other and telling not to lose focus.
“It was a high-intensity match and the South Africans fought back well. So, throughout the match, we kept telling each other not to lose focus, to keep concentrating on our bowls and also to just think about our game and not be bothered by what the South Africans were doing,” said Rupa Rani.
The team’s manager Anju Luthra said the three girls now introduced the sport of lawn bowls to the country. “All those who did not know much about lawn bowls and thought that we are just making up the numbers, this is our response to them. The girls played their hearts out. We have selected them and trained them, but its performance, hard work, dedication and devotion to the game that has made them heroes of the entire country,” she said after the match.
In the final, the Indians started by scoring 1 shot in the first end while South Africa failed to open their account. But South Africa got two points in the second end and took lead (2-1). The Indians clawed their way back, controlled their nerves and slowly took control of the final as they 8-2 after the seventh end.
But there was more drama in store as the South Africans made a comeback and caught up at 8-8 after the 10th end and then took lead. But lead changed hands once again as the Indians won the next two ends and went up 12-10. The crucial end was the penultimate round, the 14th, in which the Indians bagged three points to go up 15-10 and clinched it in the final round with two more points for the final score of 17-10.
“The girls played very well, they have combined as Fours for the first time and this combination gave Indian lawn bowls its best moment in a maiden attempt,” said team coach and manager Anju Luthra.
Indeed, the team has made history and raised the profile of Indian lawn bowls eventually.