The 2022 ISSF World Championships for Rifle and Pistol is set to start on 13 October in Cairo, Egypt. The junior competition begins first, followed by the senior event. The shotgun World Championships recently concluded in Osijek.
Why is this tournament important for India?
The World Championship is the first major competition for India's rifle and pistol shooters since the Tokyo Olympics last year, which was a turning point for the sport as no Indian could win a medal despite their consistency at other international events.
The impact of that setback is still felt, with the Indian squad sporting a completely new look. There have been systemic changes as well, with new coaches and crucially, reduced participation in the ISSF World Cups which top Indian shooters dominated in the past. These events, however, are a level less competitive than the Olympics.
Most importantly, this tournament marks the start of the new Olympic cycle with quota places on offer for the 2024 Paris Games. There are 32 direct Olympic quota spots on offer across the eight Olympic individual disciplines. There are four quota spots in each event and a country can seal up to two Olympic spots at this event. India has already sealed one in trap after Bhowneesh Mendiratta finished fourth at the shotgun Worlds.
The format of matches has also changed, still similar to the one introduced earlier this year but now only the final gold medal match of the 10m will be played in the new shoot-off style.
Who is part of this new-look Indian squad?
India will field a 48-member squad in Cairo, across the senior and junior competitions in individual, team and mixed events. The most striking aspect of the squad is the absence of many veterans while the teen talent continues to strike through.
Here's the crux of India's squad in the individual events of the Olympic disciplines. The full squad can be found here.
50m Rifle 3 Positions - Men: Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Swapnil Kusale, Niraj Kumar
50m Rifle 3 Positions - Women: Anjum Moudgil, Sift Kaur Samra, Ashi Chouksey
10m Air Rifle - Men: Arjun Babuta, Kiran Jadhav, Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil. (Olympian Divyansh Singh Panwar is in the junior team)
10m Air Rifle - Women: Mehuli Ghosh, Elavenil Valarivan, Meghana Sajjanar
25m Rapid Fire Pistol - Men: Anish, Vijayveer Sidhu, Vijay Kumar
25m Sports Pistol - Women: Manu Bhaker, Rhythm Sangwan, Abhidnya Ashok Patil (Cairo World Cup silver winner Esha Singh is in the junior squad)
10m Air Pistol - Men: Shiva Narwal, Vijayveer Sidhu, Naveen
10m Air Pistol - Women: Yuvika Tomar, Rhythm Sangwan, Palak
This list is missing some big names...
Saurabh Chaudhary, the teenager whose unflappable consistency made him a mainstay since his gold-winning senior India debut at the 2018 Asian Games, does not find a place. The only Indian to reach a final at the Tokyo Olympics, he is out of the squad after he couldn't maintain his top scores through the year despite starting the year with a gold at the Cairo World Cup.
The NRAI has a strict selection policy in place, determined by a moving average of results at various selection trials through the year and lack of consistent form has seen many seasoned shooters drop off the national squad. The regular seniors such as Rahi Sarnobat, Apurvi Chandela, Deepak Kumar, and Abhishek Verma will also be missing in action.
Who are the experienced candidates then?
Olympians Anjum Moudgil, Manu Bhaker, Elavenil Valarivan, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, (along with Divyansh Singh Panwar in the juniors) and Vijay Kumar are the well-known shooters in the squad. The squad also includes 2022 ISSF World Cup medal winners such as Arjun Babuta, Swapnil Kusale, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Rhythm Sangwan, and Palak.
Wait, Vijay Kumar the 2012 Olympic medallist?
Yes, him. Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar, now 37, will be competing in his biggest tournament since the London Games. According to PTI, he had taken a break due to a chronic shoulder injury and returned to competitive shooting last year after a gap of five years. He is currently posted at the Himachal Pradesh police headquarters in Shimla as a deputy superintendent of police, joining them after leaving the Army.
Who are some of the younger shooters to watch out for?
There is Shiva Narwal, all of 16, leading the way in men's 10m air pistol. He is the same age as Saurabh Chaudhary was in his debut international season, and the youngster beat the Olympian in February's third national selection trials.
Arjun Babuta, the 23-year-old rifle shooter who has been consistent as a junior, has had a standout senior season with an individual and team World Cup gold at Changwon, the National Games gold and the current world No 1 ranking.
Vijayveer Sindhu , Yuvika Tomar , Rudrankksh Patil , and Rhythm Sangwan  are all youngsters who have had a consistent season with a good show at the ISSF and well the National Games.
What is India's form guide? Do these changes affect medal chances?
In simple words - fairly good but unpredictable.
Indian shooters have admittedly not competed in as many ISSF events this year with the policy shifting towards sustainability but even in the limited performance and competition, they have been steady and successful.
India had topped the medal tally at the season's first World Cup in Cairo before both rifle and pistol teams opted out of the Rio World Cup in April. India then sent just a 12-member contingent of rifle shooters to the Baku World Cup and topped the table at Changwon again. However, it should be noted that several of these medals came in the team events, which while commendable, does not offer an Olympic quota in Cairo.
The last competition the crux of this squad played was the recently-concluded National Games in Ahmedabad, which ended just nine days before the World Championship. Whether these back-to-back events will help in their form or affect it, remains to be seen.
Among the Indians in the Worlds squad who grabbed medals at this month's National Games are gold medal winners Anish Bhanwala, Vijayveer Sindhu, Yuvika Tomar, Rudrankksh Patil and Elavenil Valarivan, while Babuta, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Mehuli Ghosh, Rhythm Sangwan, Abhidnya Patil were also on the podium.
One cannot count out Moudgil, who has had a steady season in Rifle 3P as well as Bhaker, who has made it to the Indian squad despite the baggage of the Olympics and other off-field issues.
Traditionally, India has not had as much success at the World Championship as at the World Cups, but the big goal will be the quota places, four of which are available in the discipline (limited to two for each country.) India's next Olympic cycle is here and the shooting system will look to capitalise on it early.
Where can I watch the 2022 ISSF World Championships?
The 2022 ISSF World Championships will be streamed live on the ISSF's Youtube channel.