The cream of Indian shooting, barring rare exceptions, will assert its prowess in the eighth Asian Air gun championship to be staged at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad, from September 27 to 30. The opening day’s programme, featuring men’s air rifle, is expected to throw up a cracker of a contest between Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang.

It should not be a surprise if Chain Singh, who had beaten them both on his way to a gold medal in air rifle in the national championship some time back, steals the thunder, even though he has been focussed on the 50-metre rifle 3-position event in which he has won an Olympic quota. The last time the World and Olympic champion Bindra, and the World and Olympic medallist Narang featured in an international event at the venue, it was the Commonwealth Games in 2010 when Narang beat Bindra to the gold with a world record. With Star Sports set to telecast the competition 'live', at least the men’s and women’s events in rifle and pistol, and possibly a pre-recorded package of the juniors and youth sections, Indian shooting is all set to take a leap into the digital world. Of course, many lively rivalries will also be sold on television to make it interesting for the viewers.

Narang is trying to recapture his persuasive touch with the air rifle, after having qualified for the Rio Olympics in the 50-metre rifle prone event, while Bindra has already conceded that he was preparing for the next season, and would like to pull his weight mainly for the team. The presence of seven of the country’s Olympic quota winners, along with a few from Kazakhstan and Iran, should add lustre to the event, which is a prelude to the Asian Championship scheduled in Kuwait in November, that offers the last set of Olympic quota places.

For many of the aspirants like Heena Sidhu, Shweta Singh, Pooja Ghatkar, Ayonika Paul, Omkar Singh, who are still gunning for the Olympic quota places, it will be another good chance to fine tune their preparation in a competitive atmosphere.

In the absence of China, which had dominated the last edition in Kuwait with 25 medals including 11 golds, it will be India’s turn to call the shots this time. India had won five gold medals last year in March, and three of them were through Chain Singh, Pooja Ghatkar and Heena Sidhu in prime events in top class fields. It will be interesting to see whether they defend the gold in a relatively weak field.

A lot of interest will be focused on the performance of juniors like Akhil Sheoran, Mampi Das, Shriyanka Sadangi, P Shri Nivetha, Shreya Gawande and Gauri Sheoran. The fact that the Commonwealth Games silver medallist Malaika Goel will be shooting in the youth section in air pistol should provide an idea about the depth in Indian shooting.

It will also be interesting for Indian shooting to welcome back its former coach Lazslo Szucsak of Hungary, who has at present developed the Iran team as a force to reckon with on the world stage. The first steps towards Olympic glory for Indian shooting was paved by Szucsak when his wards Anjali Bhagwat and Abhinav Bindra impressed: Bhagwat made the Sydney Olympics final in 2000, and Bindra, the youngest shooter then, missed the final by one point.

With Sri Lanka also fielding a team, and Saudi Arabia being impressed with the shooting range and requesting for a tie-up for regular training, there was a lot of positive energy flow on the eve of the four-day meet. Of course, the fireworks had set the stage on Friday, during the colourful opening ceremony.

Indian shooting has rocked the world for some years now, and it is time to do it at home. The Asian Air Gun championship will be the first step for the national federation, towards getting a full fledged World Cup at the Dr. Karni Singh Range. The International shooting federation ISSF, has already announced in its website, a link to “watch the finals of the 8th Asian Air gun championship”. It is time to pull the trigger.