Nat'l Games: How the only foreign coach in Lawn Bowls gave Assam the edge

Panjim: Hired by the Lawn Bowling Association of Assam a month before the ongoing 37th National Games Goa, former world championships bronze medallist Ramble Dallan Rice-Oxley of Malaysia is the lone foreign coach among the participating teams and has helped the team win two golds and a bronze so far.

Ramble’s association with the sport is more than three decades old: first as a player and then as the secretary general of Bowls Malaysia from 1997 to 2013. A world championships bronze medal and golds at the Asia Pacific tournaments highlight his professional career. His tenure as the secretary took Malaysia to newer heights during his 16-year stint, including a world champion tag for the women’s team.

On his association with the Assam contingent for the 37th National Games in Goa, Ramble said that a chance meeting with one of the office bearers of the federation (Anshuman Dutta) in Thailand sealed the deal for a fortnight-long training camp in Guwahati.

“Anshuman was in Thailand accompanying the Indian team for a tournament, and there we discussed a plan to work with the Assam team. The initial talks went well, and on his return, Anshuman rang me up, confirming my stint.

“By that time, I had already done my homework and devised strategies to work with the team during the 17-day camp set up at the Sarusajai Stadium in Guwahati, and thankfully, I got a great bunch of players to work in the camp. We used to train four hours in the morning and another four in the evenings, and the training involved various games like Tik-Tak-Toe, Nine Steps Ladder, Christmas Tree, Hopscotch, Starlite and Champion,” he explained.

“Team spirit is another major component of the sport, and we had various sessions to develop that bonding. In bowls, every player is skilful, and there is no concept of a good player. Any player can be good on their day and fail the other day, so what’s needed is some polishing,” he added.

Commenting on the greens used at the 37th National Games, Ramble said, unlike Assam, the greens in Goa are more challenging as the speed is slower.

“We are used to training at 14 seconds, and most playable greens are usually at 12-17 seconds. Here I found that the greens are at 9 seconds, which makes it even more challenging for the players. They have to adjust their game accordingly, and it is the job of the coaches to help them with those technical bits,” he said.

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The Malaysian is delighted at the talent pool available across the country and expressed his wish to return as a full-time coach of the Indian team if he was offered the job.

“Out of all the countries, given a chance, I would love to coach the national team because India has a wide and rich pool of talented players. Not only the recognised ones, but the upcoming ones are an exciting bunch of talents, and got the skills to be world beaters,” Ramble said.

“However, having said that, I work according to my principles, and never compromise on that,” he said.

Ramble is now eyeing another handful of medals from the Assam contingent on the final day of the competition on November 8, before flying back to his country, with the hope of returning and serving the national side.

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