New Delhi: With less than a year to go for the Rio Olympics, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has deviated from its "rigorous" selection policy to ensure maximum quota places for the quadrennial extravaganza.
The existing policy was not followed while picking the team for the 13th Asian Shooting Championship, which was announced in the capital today.
As many as 34 Olympic quota places will be up for grabs in the event to be held in Kuwait in November.
Asian Games gold medallist double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi returned to the team after being dropped last June owing to a poor form. Notable exclusions from the squad were Commonwealth Games medallists Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed.
The NRAI has also announced the Indian team for the upcoming 8th Asian Air Gun Championship, which the city will host next month.
"Our stated policy is that we have a rigorous selection criteria purely based on merit. For this Championship (in Kuwait) we will not follow the existing selection policy," NRAI president Raninder Singh said today.
"Barring two or three exceptions, we have not followed the existing policy. Our sole focus is quota for Olympics. So we have gone beyond quota winners and selection was done strategically," he added.
Olympic medallists Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Jitu Rai, Apurvi Chandela, Gurpreet Singh, Prakash Nanjappa and Chain Singh have already earned the country quota places for Rio Games.
Though India has so far won seven quotas, Raninder is confident of earning a total of 12 berths -- one more than 2012 London Games - for next year's event.
In the Asian Championship, the seven shooters will not be fielded in the events they have won their quotas.
In the Shotgun World Championship in Lonato, Italy, next month, two quota places will be there in each event, and Raninder is hopeful of the trap shooters doing well.
A couple of shooters' case was not discussed while team selection as the coaches recommended that they can't take psychological pressure on match days.
Raninder said all the top shooters of the country, including Bindra, Narang, Vijay Kumar, Jitu Rai, Apurvi, Henna Sidhu and Ayonika Paul will be competing in the Asian Air Gun Championship.