Gamechanger: Shooting's star on the rise but it needs fanbase to survive

CWG silver medallist Anjum Moudgil says there should be a screening system in place for coaches. PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP via Getty Images

With competitive sport in limbo, it's an opportunity for those in charge to re-think how their sports could change. Over the next few weeks we'll look at some of the most popular sports in India and speak to stakeholders - players, administrators, former players, fans - on what change they wish to see in their sport (and also what they would not change). We started with Abhinav Bindra, India's only solo gold medalist at the Olympics, for an overview of why sport in general needs to change, before moving on to hockey. Today, we look at shooting.

Innovate, urbanise

Abhinav Bindra, Olympic gold medalist, member of IOC Athletes Commission

You have to take your sport to the people rather than expecting people to come to your sport. The way to do that is through newer ideas. Evolve formats, evolve the way shooting is showcased. I think if you really innovate in certain disciplines, such as the air gun, air rifle and air pistol, you can find ways to actually showcase the sport in an urban environment. I think with innovation and the use of technology, it can become more appealing to the spectator. If a person comes and watches your sport for five minutes, he/she has to become hooked to it.

You have to look at sport keeping one principle in mind - to increase the fan base with an eye on non-fans. The current shooting fan base is made up of purists and they prefer the traditionalist form of the sport. But you have to ask yourself the hard question of whether the current fan base is going to be big enough to lead the sport into the next 10 to 20 years, into the next couple of decades. It has to be relevant to today's youth.

I think there has to be a lot of involvement of people from outside the shooting community because you have to find a way to cater to the non-shooting fan and that can only happen when you take their point of view into consideration. Broadcasters also should be involved in discussions very early on because broadcasting in sport has certain principles and it's the reason why certain sports are more successful than others.

Bring back the scrapped events

Jaspal Rana, current junior national pistol coach, four-time Asian Games gold medalist

It could be an unpopular opinion but I'd wish to see the three events - double trap, 50m rifle prone and free pistol, that were scrapped from the Olympic programme in 2017 to be reinstated. Double trap won us our first-ever individual Olympic silver in 2004 and traditionally, the event has been an Asian-dominated one (accounting for 8 of the total 18 Olympic medallists). In all three events, I think India has shown promise and depth in the past.

Our federation is among the most well-run sports bodies in the country and the credit largely goes to NRAI chief Raninder Singh. Bringing in former top India shooters as coaches for the new generation of shooters has been a huge positive step and the results are for all to see. Indian coaches understand their shooters and conditions much better and this is a good way to reduce our reliability on foreign coaches. What could get better though is a parity in pay structure and greater respect for our home-bred coaches.

More spectators, shorter formats

Joydeep Karmakar, coach, fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympics

Shooting needs to turn more spectator friendly. It's a sport that's built on stillness which can make it hard to keep viewers hooked. What they see on their TV screens are guys barely moving a muscle. The tension and adrenaline of the sport is lost upon spectators.

Shorter formats could be a start. Instead of 60-shots rifle/pistol matches, there could be 30-shot encounters perhaps. A system of draws could be introduced which bunches shooters in smaller groups and pits them one-on-one. That way, viewers can follow individual contests and it would also build a greater sense of competitiveness. Also, the pellets travel at such high speeds that cameras can't capture their path. A person watching the sport can't tell that the shots are being fired between heartbeats. Maybe using technology, a heart rate monitor for instance, to convey the tension, could be explored. During technical breaks, getting shooters to speak on what they were going through, just turning it more interactive, might breathe life to the whole exercise. Unlike a cover drive in cricket or a drop shot in tennis, a shooter's genius in action is invisible. The sport has to evolve to be able to convey at least a part of the experience.

Screen the coaches

Anjoum Moudgil, 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medalist

In India, there are plenty of ill-qualified coaches. It's a real problem. When you're new to the sport, if the technical training is flawed, the basics suffer. By the time you realize that what you were taught was no good, you've already lost a couple of years in the sport.

There should be a screening system in place for coaches. Anyone who wants to open up a range or run a training academy should either be a former international or should have completed NRAI-organised coaches program. We need to have such checks in place.

Sport psychology

Anjali Bhagwat, former 10m rifle world No 1, first Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup

What needs to change among Indian shooters is the tendency to overlook the psychology of the sport. In recent times, we've had new waves of shooters bursting onto the scene, winning a few medals and then disappearing after two or three years. There haven't been consistent winners.

This is the perfect time for shooters to work on their mind. Training is going to start slow now and competitions are still a while away. During my playing days, when I returned to the range after a year and a half hiatus from the sport, it felt like I was never away. Even though I hadn't fired pellets, I'd played out in my mind over and over again, through visualization techniques. Shooters who don't have their rifles and access to a range, should revise their peak performances in their minds, try to simulate that environment, make notes so nothing feels new even when they return to the sport from a break. It will help them last longer in the sport.

Also, NRAI should consider a one year-relaxation for shooters who're in the transition phase and are supposed to compete as juniors for the last time this year. Since competitions are on hold, it may be reasonable to do so. As a junior moving into the senior category one carries a certain momentum which could be lost in the current phase. The transition phase is a tricky one for most athletes and it needs to be handled with care, particularly in an extraordinary circumstance like we find ourselves in now.