Tokyo: Going by the rankings it was a fair call but tactically appears a mistake as Pravin Jadhav joined Deepika Kumari for archery’s mixed pair event instead of Atanu Das and the last-minute pairing fumbled to go out of the medal race at the Tokyo Games, here on Saturday.
Deepika and Jadhav looked completely out of sorts and lost 2-6 to Korea in the quarterfinals despite some below-par shooting by the top seeds.
That the two Korean Olympic debutants, 17-year-old Kim Je Deok and 20-year-old An San won two sets despite scoring only 35 out of a possible 40 showed the below-par shootings by both the teams.
The team think-tank here on Friday made the bold decision to split up the husband-wife combination of Deepika and Das, who had won a World Cup mixed team gold less than a month back in Paris.
The mixed teams are formed on the basis of scores and on Friday it was Jadhav who was best among the trio finishing 31st, four places ahead of Deepika’s ‘favourite’ partner Das in the ranking round.
Countries, however, have one-hour time to exercise the option of switching to their best combination but the Indian think-tank chose to be bold.
Deepika was already unhappy at the surprise decision to rejig the combination.
“I’m a little sad, he (Atanu Das) is not with me in the mixed team. It mattered, as I really wanted to play with him but it did not happen,” Deepika said after the first round win against Chinese Taipei.
A former top-level India coach slammed the decision and blamed the team management in Tokyo for making a “royal blunder”.
“We had 100 per cent chances, if Deepika had partnered Das. Deepika was visibly very upset, we did not even see her talking to her partner (Jadhav),” the coach, who did not wish to be named, told PTI.
“Did the coach and manager, who are accompanying the team, discuss this with her before taking the decision?
“They (Deepika and Atanu) have a chemistry together and a deep understanding which helps at the highest stage. I’m sure Das at least would not have shot that 6. We made a royal blunder,” he added.
Archery Association of India (AAI) official Virendra Sachdeva, who is accompanying the team in Tokyo, however defended the decision.
“There was no problem with the coordination as we did really well to bounce back against the Chinese Taipei.
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“But archery at the Olympics will remain a mystery for us. We lost the match in the first set only after we failed to win despite the Koreans shooting a poor 35.”
“It’s not the Koreans who won, we lost the match. I’ve never seen Koreans shoot so poorly that too at the highest level.”
Asked about the decision to leave out Das, he said: “He (Jadhav) earned his place purely based on the ranking score and there was absolutely no favoritism. Our selection committee was neutral and sent our No 1 archer. There’s always a first time together.”
“What if Das and Deepika would have lost? There would always be questions, ifs and buts if we lose,” he said.
Deepika and Jadhav looked scrappy in their first match together against Chinese Taipei and trailed 1-3 but the duo seized the momentum with six 10s in the final two sets to storm into the last-eight.
Up against the Korean pair, who were making their Olympic debuts, Deepika failed to notch a single perfect 10 from eight arrows, while rookie Jadhav misfired a six in the crucial fourth set after drilling in three perfect 10s to lose the match.
The Indians failed to shoot even a single 10 in the first set as the top seed Korean duo of An San and Kim Je Deok took the first set 35-32 in a low-scoring affair.
Jadhav picked up tempo in the second set with two 10s, but Deepika was astray with scores of 8 and 9. The team lost the second set 37-38.
Required to win the third set to keep their hopes alive, Indians shot three 9s and one 8, while An San faltered with an 8 in the final arrow to hand India the only set.
Needing another win in the fourth set to take the match to the decider, Jadhav started off with a 6 that virtually ended their campaign.
With no women’s team in fray, India now stare at yet another grim prospect as they brace for tougher challenges ahead in the men’s team and individual rounds slated next week.
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