Short of experience but not lacking in confidence after some good performances in recent international events, Indian Lawn Bowls players are aiming to win a Commonwealth Games medal in their very first appearance in the multi-sporting event in Delhi next month.
The competition will be tough with the Australians and the Malaysians favourites to win most of the medals but given the current form of Indian players and favourable surface, the 16-member squad would look to exploit the home advantage to open their medal account in the Games.
The Indian team which officially came into existence less than three years ago have come a long way since then, winning the Asian Lawn Bowls Championship in Shenzen, China in 2009 besides coming up with a commendable performance in the Asia-Pacific Championship, also last year.
The team under the guidance of Australian coach Richard Gale finished fourth in Ladies Triple event at the eight-nation meet in the capital this year in April.
Teenagers Tania Chowdhury and Farzana Khan, among the eight women in the squad, are India's best medal hopes in the triples and individual categories respectively.
While Tania won a silver in the Asia-Pacific Championship in August last year in Kuala Lumpur and finished fourth in Ladies triple section at the eight-nation event in April, Farzana came up with some good performance in the individual category in the eight-nation championship, narrowly losing her semi-final playoff to Malaysia's world number four Siti Ahmad.
Coach Gale, who has been working closely with the Indian team over the past 18 months, said the team has developed the required skills and confidence to make an impact in front of the home crowd.
"The team is training hard to bring India its first medal in the Commonwealth Games. We know we are short of experience given the likes of the Australians, New Zealanders and Malaysians but we are confident of performing well," he said.
"Couple of exposure trips have also helped a team a lot in the recent times. We won the championship in Shenzen and also came up with a commendable show in the Asia-Pacific championship. We are ready to compete against a top-class field.
"The food supplements, weather conditions and the surface will surely work to our confidence. Our women's team is stronger than the men's team and overall we are hoping to win 2-3 medals," Gale said, exuding confidence.
The Lawn Bowling Federation of India president Sunaina Kumari said that the entire squad has come a long way in these three years in terms of performance and experience and it's time to take on some of the best teams in the world.
"There are three events each for men and women -- singles, doubles and triples -- in the Commonwealth Games. A total of 18 medals will be up for grabs, nine each for men and women. So we are expecting three medals, one each in men's pairs, women's triple and women's singles," Kumari said.
"At least we expect a podium finish by the girls as men's event offers some strong competition given the likes of the Aussies, the Kiwis and the Britons. Ranchi boy Sunil Kumar is a medal hope in men's pairs," she said.
The Indian squad will participate in the women's singles, women's pairs, women's triple, men's singles, men's pairs and men's triples events.
Before moving to Delhi in March, they trained in Guwahati, putting in long hours on the pitch to understand the nuances of the game and improve their style of play.
Gale said the facilities provided by the organisers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium complex, the venue for the event, have helped the players.
"This synthetic surface is great. It's a superior turf with no problem. The competition arena at the JLN stadium is as good as any in the world," the Australian said.
Lawn Bowls has been in all Commonwealth Games except in Kingston in 1966. It will have six events to be played on Synthetic Green turfs that have been built specially for the event. The surface has been highly rated by international experts.
There are three basic bowling techniques -- the aimed ball along the ground, the high arc and the power shot. Points are scored by rolling the ball as close as possible to a smaller ball called the 'Jack'.
The professional format is a best of three sets, with none ends in each set. A set is awarded to the player/team with the maximum scoring shots at the end of the 9 ends. In the case of a tie at the end of the sets, a three-end tie-breaker is played to decide the winner.
Image: Image: Yvonne Derksema plays a shot during a game of barefoot lawn bowls at a bowling club in Manly in Sydney.