Ugra: Before the medals deluge, a reality check
India loves the Commonwealth Games, not out of nostalgia over the British Empire. This is because India's medals tally is never more impressive at any mega-event than it tends to be at the CWG. Among its 438 Commonwealth Games medals, India has 155 golds. In the 21st century, India are among the top five CWG medal-winners, even finishing No.2 in Delhi in 2010. What's not to love?
Unlike an Olympics, at the CWG, India's medals begin raining down right from day one. In the medal-rich disciplines like shooting, weightlifting and wrestling, India find themselves ahead in the race. Yes, India's presence and results are growing in global shooting, but in the other two sports, most global powerhouses proliferate outside the Commonwealth.
For the majority of young Indian athletes, the CWG is often the warm-up mega-event as they aim to set out into wider international competition. For the weary warriors, the CWG is the competition where limbs are tested for another round of acclaim.
At the 2014 Games in Glasgow, India won 64 medals (15 gold, 30 silver, 19 bronze). In Gold Coast 2018, India's 220 competitors should be expected to return with something approaching this figure. There could be Indian progress in less-regarded CWG disciplines, but a paucity of medals in at least six sports should lead to brutal post-mortems and the onset of gloom.
Most of the heavy lifting will be done by the Big Three: shooting, weightlifting and wrestling (total 47 medal events). The other sports where India must not return unrewarded are badminton, boxing and hockey.
On paper, this is how the medals-register, should in theory, start ringing.
India are the most successful shooting nation at the CWG after Australia, with 56 golds to Australia's 67. In Gold Coast, their nearest rivals are Australia primarily in shotgun, and England across the competition. At last year's Commonwealth Shooting Championship (which also served as a test event for Gold Coast 2018), India finished on top with 20 medals, an Indian shooter on the podium in every single pistol and rifle event bar one (women's 50m rifle 3posn). In the men's pistol event, India won every single medal, bar one (gold 25m rapid fire). In Glasgow 2014, India had won 17 shooting medals (4 gold, 9 silver, 4 bronze). In the four years since Glasgow with a fast-developing youth programme, India's next generation of shooters should make their mega-event mark at the Belmont Centre in Brisbane.
Among the first medals on offer in Gold Coast is the 48kg women weightlifting. India should win their first gold right there. When Mirabai Chanu qualified for the 2018 Games by winning gold in September's Commonwealth and Oceania championships, she went ahead of her closest rival at the event by 35kg. Three months later, she won the 48kg World Championship title. Five of the 16 qualification slots available for the gold medalists at the September CWG test event went to Indians, including defending CWG champion Satish Sivalingam in the 77kg.
In Glasgow, Indian weightlifters and powerlifters won 14 medals, three golds behind their foremost CWG rivals Nigeria, who won six. India's medal-dominance should come in the light and mid-level weight categories. Pacific Islanders dominate in the heavier categories and Nigeria are the all-round threat.
Sushil Kumar's gold should be a given. Anything else would be deemed an utterly underwhelming performance. The CWG's big three in wrestling are India, Canada and Nigeria. In Glasgow, India won more medals than the other two (13) and were second on the medals table with five golds to Canada's seven. These are the only countries fielding wrestlers in every weight category. India are expected to run over the lighter categories, with the Canadians establishing dominance in the 86kg-plus events.
At the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships held in December 2017, 10 countries fielded men's freestyle teams and seven in the women's competition. Of the 57 men's freestyle and 38 women's freestyle medals, India won 20 medals in each category. Six of the 10 men's weight categories features five or less wrestlers. Only one in 10 women's weights featured more than five competitors, eight with four or less wrestlers. The actual CWG games may have a wider, open field, but the medals must only come by the bucketful. It's a non-negotiable.
In Glasgow, there were no boxing golds, only four silvers and a bronze. But here, Mary Kom's gold in the 48kg event should be in the bag. The 12-strong squad has enough experience among its ranks; along with Mary, there are Asian Games gold medallst Vikas Krishan and three CWG medallists in 2010 gold winner Manoj Kumar, 2014 silver medalist Sarita Devi and bronze medalist Pinki Rani Jangra. The newbies in line for medals should be Amit Panghal in the 48kg event and Lovlina Borgoahin in the 69kg category for women. Of its 12 competitors at the CWG, surely six medals from its boxers is a reasonable expectation.
Six golds? That many after Parupalli Kashyap's sole gold along with a doubles silver and two bronzes in Glasgow 2014? Since then, PV Sindhu has won an Olympic silver, Kidambi Srikkanth has cleaned up four Superseries titles in a year, and there are seven Indian men and three women in the top 60 ranked players in the world. India's challenges in badminton will come from Malaysia - Lee Chong Wei is still around - and England's Adcock couple in the mixed-doubles. Six golds would be hard, yet half of those appropriate, given the size of the Indian badminton stride round the world. A medal in every event will be due.
In the simplest terms, the men should at least win a medal. The women need a spot in the semi-finals to make their presence felt. The men have England, Pakistan, Wales and Malaysia in their group. The women have it tougher, with England, South Africa, Malaysia and Wales. For both squads, Australia lie in wait on the way to a medal.
On the sidelines of these CWG Daddy Disciplines, are the events where Indian excellence has become a source of unexpected delight. Medals in gymnastics, squash and TT. More athletics golds, please. National records in swimming would be lovely. Razzle-dazzle from the basketball teams, and, maybe, cyclist Deborah Herold can present us with a breakout performance to add to her list of considerable achievements.
The Solid Six must keep India's medal tally ticking over and in doing so, lift the rest of the crew. It's what the Games motto itself says: Share The Dream.