Star Watch

ARCHERY

Jayanta Talukdar: Of the 12 archers India has selected for the CWG, Jayanta Talukdar (men's individual recurve) is the most celebrated and a sure shot gold winner. The 24-year-old archer's recent success, a bronze medal in the World Cup finals in Edinburgh, and his World No. 3 status augur well for the country ahead of the CWG. He was the first Indian to win a World Cup medal in 2006 at Porec. Consistency has been the strong point of this well-built archer. His remarkable temperament sets him apart from the other archers. He stands head and shoulder above archers from England, Australia and other Commonwealth countries.

Deepika Kumari: On current form, the 17-year-old archer from Ranchi is India's best bet to win the women's individual gold. Deepika is India's only woman world champion, having won the cadet individual recurve gold at Ogden, U.S., in 2009. Since that effort, she hasn't looked back. Before Ogden, Deepika won the senior and sub-junior National titles in 2009. The following year, she successfully defended her senior title. Once in the senior Indian team, Deepika sealed her place with a team gold at the South Asian Games in Dhaka earlier this year. She also won gold medals at the second Asian Grand Prix in Bangkok and the Commonwealth Games Test event in Delhi.

S. Sabanayakan SHOOTING

Ronjan Sodhi: The double trap gold at the World Cup Final in Izmir, Turkey (September 20), where he beat a field containing World and Olympic champions — he shot 192 and won by a staggering four points — showed the excellent form that Sodhi, 31, is in. Earlier, he had won the Lonato World Cup with a score of 195, one short of the world record. And two years ago, he won the World Cup gold in Belgrade with a double world record of 147 and 194.

At the start of the season, in Mexico, even though he was forced to shoot in the MQS section (he was thus not eligible to shoot in the final for a medal), Sodhi underlined his class with a world record-equalling score of 147. Though he failed to win a medal in the World Championship in Munich following an error that saw him miss five of the first six birds, he has recovered from that jolt and is ready to deliver in front of the home crowd.

Gagan Narang: The rifle ace is aiming for six gold medals (three events) and a possible shot at the David Dixon award for the best athlete of the Commonwealth Games. His friend Samaresh Jung had won the award at the Melbourne CWG.

Air rifle is Narang's forte. He won the bronze medal in the event at the World Championship in August. He also made the finals of the air rifle event in all the four World Cups this season. He won the World Cup Final gold in Bangkok in 2008 with a double world record, that included a perfect 600. He missed the final in Beijing Olympics on the count-back with 595, one point short of the eventual gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra. On his day, Narang, 27, can match the best of shooters in the 3-position and prone events. In Melbourne 2006, he won four gold medals in two events. He lost in the tie-shoot to World No. 1 Warren Potent (Australia) in prone at the Commonwealth Championship in February.

Tejaswini Sawant: She won the World Championship in prone by shooting a world record 597 in Munich in August. Tejaswani, 30, thus, became the third world champion in Indian shooting after Abhinav Bindra and Manavjit Singh Sandhu. At the last CWG, Tejaswani won two gold medals in air rifle. But this time, it's a new challenge. She will be competing in rifle 3-position and prone events. Tejaswani had missed a medal in the Commonwealth Championship in Delhi in February as she was going through the trauma of her father's death during the competition. She had won a bronze medal in the World Cup in Munich last year in the 3P event. With the confidence of a world champion, she is sure to finish on top.

TENNIS

Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi: The two-time Asian Games gold medal-winning pair has set its sight on claiming its first Commonwealth Games gold. Paes and Bhupathi, the former World No. 1 pair, have been among the world's top-10 in doubles for more than a decade, winning 12 and 11 Grand Slam titles respectively, including mixed doubles. Of those, three doubles titles were won together at the French Open and Wimbledon. Failing to win an Olympic medal despite three attempts still rankles the duo. They are now keen to make the Commonwealth Games a grand success. As he did in the Asian Games (Doha, 2006), Paes is likely to win the mixed doubles gold as well, with Sania Mirza.

Kamesh Srinivasan BOXING

Vijender Singh (75 kg): World and Olympic medallist Vijender Singh will spearhead India's challenge. Considering his class and experience, his march to the gold medal should not be difficult. In the Commonwealth Championship in March this year, Vijender fought a dramatic final bout against Englishman Frank Buglioni to land the gold medal. The middleweight boxer will carry this confidence into the Commonwealth Games. And talking of the 23-year-old's motivation, firstly he takes a lot of pride in competing in the CWG since it is being held in India. And then, he wants to improve upon his record at the previous CWG in Melbourne (2006) where he had bagged a silver medal.

Dinesh Kumar (84 kg): He is expected to have a smooth sailing. Honoured with the prestigious Arjuna Award recently, Dinesh has been one of India's consistent performers in the past two years. His aggressive approach and ruthless attacking makes him an attractive boxer to watch.

The major medals — bronze, 2008 World Cup, bronze, Asian Championship 2009 and gold, Commonwealth Championship 2010 — he won recently speak only partially about his abilities. He, however, failed to realise his full potential at the Beijing Olympics and the World Championship in Milan.

“I am focusing on the Commonwealth Games. I am all the more inspired after getting the Arjuna Award,” says the 22-year-old pugilist.

Suranjoy Singh (52 kg): Known as the ‘pocket-sized dynamo', the soft-spoken Suranjoy has been on a gold medal-winning spree. In the last one year, he has won five gold medals in various competitions and is one of the most respected boxers in the Indian camp. The top honours he won at the President's Cup (Baku) — where he was named the ‘best boxer' — the Asian Championship (Zhuhai), the A. K. Mishra international meet (Chandigarh), the South Asian Games (Dhaka) and the Commonwealth Championship (Delhi) are credentials that make the 24-year-old pugilist a clear favourite in the 52 kg category.

Though his unfortunate early exit in the World Championship last year must still be rankling, Suranjoy is focussed on writing a new chapter in the Commonwealth Games.

WEIGHTLIFTING

K. Ravi Kumar (69 kg): The youngster from Orissa, who started his career with a junior Asian Championship silver medal before participating in any National-level event, has only moved forward. His back-to-back National titles in 2009 and 2010 (on both occasions he was adjudged the best lifter), the sixth-place finish in the Asian Championship in Taldykorgan (Kazakhstan) and the gold in the Commonwealth Championship (Penang, Malaysia) last year are proof of his potential. On current form, the 23-year-old lifter is streets ahead of his closest rivals in the Commonwealth. Ravi Kumar's lifts of 141 kg (snatch) and 180 kg (clean and jerk) for a total of 321 kg during the selection trials in Delhi in August helped him set three National marks. “I am confident of winning a gold medal. My main aim is to end up on the podium in the Asian Games,” he says.

Soniya Chanu (48 kg): The 30-year-old lifter is yet to achieve something really big despite being around for some years. Her season's best of 175 kg had come in the National Championship in Udaipur in February last, and if she can repeat that effort in the CWG, then she would undoubtedly be crowned the champion. A silver medallist in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games and a gold medal winner in the Commonwealth Championship in 2009, Soniya was close to her showing in Udaipur during the selection trials. She had lifted a total of 173 kg to beat A. Sandhya (167 kg) for a berth in the Indian side. In the CWG, Soniya's closest competitor is likely to be South African Portia Vries, who has recorded a season's best of 162kg.

WRESTLING

Sushil Kumar (66 kg): Recently-crowned World champion and Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Sushil Kumar is the overwhelming favourite in his category. Considering his clinical performance to win the top honour in the Commonwealth Championship (Jalandhar, December 2009), Sushil should have an easy time at the CWG. However, the 27-year-old wrestler, who is also the current Asian champion, would not take the competition lightly. For him the Commonwealth Games assumes importance because the country's honour is at stake. Thus, after spending just two days in various felicitation ceremonies following his World Championship success, Sushil rushed back to the National camp in Sonepat and resumed his training.

Like Vijender, he has been nominated as one of the brand ambassadors of the Games and it would be befitting if he contributes to India's gold medal tally.

Alka Tomar (59 kg): The 26-year-old from Meerut has the distinction of being the only woman wrestler from the country to have won a World Championship medal — a bronze in 2006. She is also a bronze winner at the Doha Asian Games, a two-time Asian Championship bronze medallist and the reigning Commonwealth champion. One of the technically sound wrestlers, Alka has the capability to win the gold medal.

Y. B. Sarangi TABLE TENNIS

Sharath Kamal: Hovering in the 150s in the world some years ago, Sharath Kamal began to move up the rankings only after winning the gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. With that success he gained in confidence and his game touched a new high. Though he has had his ups and downs, Sharath rose to become India's highest ranked player – he is ranked World No. 41 now after being No. 39 in August this year.

Sharath insists that international recognition came to him only after the 2006 Games. “I started my ascent in world table tennis after winning the gold in Melbourne,” he says. Going into the 19th edition of the CWG in New Delhi, the expectations on Sharath are very high, especially after his back-to-back victories in the U.S. Open and the Egypt Open in July. There is no doubt that the Indian star is capable of defending his singles title, but stiffer challenges await him in the form of Paul Drinkhall, Segun Toriola and his nemesis Gao Ning. The Delhi CWG is yet another opportunity for Sharath to push up his rankings. It should also help him in his goal of winning a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

K. Keerthivasan