Indian shooting has undergone a huge change since the last Asian Games. This overhaul had been mandated, in part, by a poor outing at the Tokyo Olympics and has resulted in a new-look Indian squad for Hangzhou.
Five years back in Indonesia, shooting was one of India's most successful sports with a total of 9 medals (2 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze) - second only to athletics. None of these medal winners are part of the Indian Asiad squad in 2023, with most of their career trajectories going downward after Tokyo. This means no Saurabh Chaudhary, last edition's golden teen or Rahi Sarnobat, the first Indian woman to win an Asiad shooting gold.
Now, India will be represented by several youngsters with good results at the international level recently but will be competing in a major, multi-sport competition at the senior level for the first time. The 33-member squad (17 men, 16 women) features only 3 shooters who were part of India's 2018 contingent - Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala and Akhil Sheoran.
Shooting's popularity has dipped in the Indian sporting consciousness recently, but a good account at the Asiad could change that.
In Hangzhou, India will be competing in 27 disciplines, all scheduled between September 24 and October 1.
Here's a closer look at India's shooting squad and their chances.
Who are in India's squad?
Men's 10m air rifle: Divyansh Singh Panwar, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Rudrankksh Patil
Women's 10m air rifle: Ramita, Mehuli Ghosh, Ashi Chouksey
Men's 50m rifle 3-position: Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Swapnil Kusale, Akhil Sheoran
Women's 50m rifle 3-position: Sift Kaur Samra, Ashi Chouksey, Manini Kaushik
Men's 10m air pistol: Sarabjot Singh, Shiva Narwal, Arjun Singh Cheema
Women's 10m air pistol: Divya TS, Esha Singh, Palak
Men's 25m rapid fire pistol: Anish, Vijayveer Sidhu, Adarsh Singh
Women's 25m sports pistol: Rhythm Sangwan, Manu Bhaker, Esha Singh
Air rifle mixed team: Divyansh Singh Panwar/Ramita;
Air pistol mixed team: Sarabjot Singh/Divya TS
Men's trap: Prithviraj Toindaman, Kynan Chenai, Zoravar Singh Sandhu
Women's trap: Rajeshwari Kumari, Manisha Keer, Preeti Rajak
Men's skeet: Anantjeet Singh Naruka, Gurjoat Singh Khangura, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa
Women's skeet: Ganemat Sekhon, Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Darsha Rathore
Skeet mixed team: Anantjeet Singh Naruka, Ganemat Sekhon
How was this squad selected?
The squad was first named in July after the season's final national selection trials based on NRAI's strict average-based selection policy - where the best four of a shooter's last five scores are taken into account. This policy ensures the most in-form and consistent shooters make the cut, irrespective of experience and past performances.
Also, each country can send a maximum of five shooters for the men's and women's rifle events for the Asian Games. This means that there was an overlap in the 10m air rifle and 50m rifle events.
So, what are Indian shooters' chances... realistically?
A fair question after the Tokyo Olympics, which led to a change in system. One of those decisions was to not participate in all four ISSF World Cups in year, and hence there were fewer medals since. This is not necessarily a bad thing though.
India's current squad features many recent international medallists, many of whom come from the successful junior system and have junior international medals to their name. In August, India finished second at the ISSF World Championship in Baku with a total of six gold and eight bronze medals (including team and non-Olympic events.) In the Olympic events, India won a gold and two bronze medals with seven finalists and four Paris Olympic quota places.
Crucially, men's and women's team events are back at the Asiad, which could significantly boost India's medal tally. The team medals are decided based on the total of qualification scores of the country's 3 shooters and has long been a strength for India. Additionally, Indian shooting has almost always done well at Asian Games, with young and new players standing out. Remember, Saurabh Chaudhary made his senior debut for India in 2018. Or the 15-year-old Shardul Vihan in double trap who impressed Abhinav Bindra? Despite the Olympic blip and shooting subsequently falling out of the radar with the sport's exclusion from the 2022 CWG, India would back itself for a good show.
Who are the shooters to watch out for?
One of the big medal hopes will be 2022 air rifle world champion Rudrankksh Patil. The 19-year-old missed out on selection for the Worlds to defend his title but has the experience of winning at the highest level. His fellow rifle shooters, Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar are both Olympians and medallists at the recent World University Games while Swapnil Kusale and Akhil Sheoran have both won Olympic quotas in Men's 50m rifle 3 positions for Paris 2024. Sheoran also won bronze at the Worlds last month.
Mehuli Ghosh (10m air rifle) and Sift Kumar Samra (50m rifle 3P) won Olympic quota spots in Baku, with Ghosh - a veteran already at 22 - also winning a bronze, making her another medal favourite. There was a time when women's 10m air rifle was India's most competitive category and Ghosh has emerged from that crucible to be the most experienced in the current squad.
The Indian team features the reigning 10m air pistol mixed team world champions in Shiva Narwal and Esha Singh. The teenagers won the title last month in Baku and will be looking to make a similar mark in their debut Asian Games. 18-year-old Esha has been consistent across both 10m air pistol and 25m sports pistol over the last few years. Last year she made her senior ISSF World Cup debut with two team golds and an individual silver.
Manu Bhaker had narrowly missed out on a medal at the last Asiad and will be looking to make that right. One of the only shooters to have consistently made the Indian team for big events under the stringent selection policy, the 21-year-old will only be competing in sports pistol this time after being overtaken in 10m women's and mixed event. She has had a decent season so far - ending her two-year World Cup medal drought earlier this year, winning 10m gold medal at the World University Games in July and recently reconciling with former coach Jaspal Rana, with whom she had a tumultuous fallout during the Olympics.
Sarabjot Singh has had a standout 2023 with two World Cup gold medals - 10m pistol in Bhopal in March and mixed team with Divya TS in Baku in May.
There is plenty of experience in trap between Prithviraj Toindaman and Kynan Chenai while Rajeshwari Kumari became only the second Indian woman to win an Olympic trap quota last month at Baku.
In skeet, Ganemat Sekhon is a multiple World Cup medallist in both individual and mixed team and in 2021 won India's first women's skeet medal at a senior World Cup while Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, a late entrant into the squad after achieving the Sports Ministry-laid criteria, is also an experienced candidate.