New Delhi: Poor form of former World No.1 archer Deepika Kumari and "needless" selection changes have contributed to the dramatic drop in the performance of India`s famed women`s recurve team, which failed to qualify for the year`s opening World Cup months after winning the competition twice in a row.
A lowly 17th rank in Shanghai World Cup followed by a seventh place finish in World Cup stage 2 in Medellin, Colombia last month are worrying signs for the team in the Asian Games year. "It is hard to believe that our performance has gone down in such a short time. Not long ago we were beating some of the best teams in the world and now we don`t even know whether we would be able to make the top-16," Bombayala Devi, who has been a regular in the recurve squad for the last five years, told PTI ahead of World Cup Stage 3 beginning June 10 in Antalya, Turkey.
The steep slump for the recurve outfit comes after a hugely successful three-year period when it won three World Cup titles to go with a maiden medal at the World Championships, where the trio of Deepika, Bombayala and Chekrovolu Swuro bagged a silver in the 2011 edition.
Deepika, who has seen quite a few highs and lows of sport despite being only 19, had played a major role in the team`s success. Now she finds herself out of the squad, having failed to impress in the selection trials. "Deepika has achieved a lot in such a young age. She has been advised to change her shooting style and the adjustment can`t happen overnight. She needs time to adjust. Since she has not made the cut for two of the three World Cups, she is perhaps a bit low on confidence. The current coaches must back her and look after her carefully," reckoned Dronacharya awardee Purnima Mahato, who was in charge of the women`s team until the London Olympics.
It was in the Summer Games where the then World No.1 Deepika cracked under pressure and bowed out of the competition early.
Deepika`s longtime teammate Bombayala thinks the loss of her form and the team`s slide could also be attributed to the revised selection policy.
"There are selection trials for all four World Cups. We just got done with Stage 3 selection in Hyderabad yesterday and when we come back from Turkey, we will have trials for Stage 4 at the end of June. The focus is more on getting through the trials rather than competing overseas. Earlier, there was a gap of at least two World Cups before the team was picked again," said Bombayala.
"The frequent trials are bringing the rising talent to the fore but there needs to be some continuity in the long run," she added.
The last two World Cups -- held in April and May -- saw India field contrasting units. Anil Kamineni, the Archery Association of India secretary general, defended the existing policy, saying that it gives opportunity to the upcoming talent. "We have a fair and transparent selection process. It has helped many young archers climb the ladder. As far as Deepika`s performance is concerned, every sportsperson experiences ups and downs. She has now gone back to Jamshedpur to train with her local coaches. Hopefully she will be back for the Asian Games," said Kamineni adding that the team for the Asiad will be announce mid-July.
The Indian team`s coaching staff is currently headed by Korea`s Lim Chae Woong.