It will be a tough challenge for India when it launches its campaign to improve its performance of the last Asian Games when it won 10 gold, 17 silver and 26 bronze medals.
The architects of seven of those 10 gold medals — shooter Jaspal Rana (3), tennis ace Leander Paes (2) and women's world No. 2 chess player Koneru Humpy (2) — are not competing here for a variety of reasons. There are, of course, a clutch of champions who are ready to display their class and contribute to India's tally.
Improvement would not have been difficult to achieve but for the high of the recent Commonwealth Games when India finished second by the weight of its 38 gold medals, ahead of England. To hit another high so quickly, despite the hunger of the champions being rekindled with millions being showered upon them as financial reward, will not be that easy.
More than anybody else, the fortunes of the jumbo Indian contingent of about 600 athletes will depend on the shooters hitting the bull's eye. India has world champions as well as an Olympic champion, but Asian Games remains a tough proposition.
The Indian shooters have won only five gold medals in the Asian Games, and four of them have come from Rana. It would be interesting to see how world and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, double world record holder Gagan Narang, world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, world record holder and World Cup Final champion Ronjan Sodhi, world champion Tejaswini Sawant and other talented youngsters like world junior champion and record holder Asher Noria correct the imbalance.
There is none as adored as Saina Nehwal in Indian sports at the moment, particularly after the dramatic manner in which she overcame match point in the final to win gold in the Commonwealth Games. Can she tame the dragons in their lair?
The kabaddi teams, with the game itself being remembered only once in four years, may have to ensure both the men's and women's titles to bolster the country's gold haul.
The wrestlers will be severely tested, particularly in the absence of world champion Sushil Kumar who is nursing an injury.
Banking on Suranjoy
The boxers have raised a lot of hope after winning three gold medals last month. They may find it hard to sustain the momentum as they would face stiff opposition here. Asian champion Suranjoy Singh is tipped to be the star even ahead of the world and Olympic medallist Vijender Singh.
Five-time world champion Mary Kom has vowed to master the challenge in the 51-kg event after having competed only in the 46 and 48 kg categories so far.
Pankaj Advani will have to lead India's campaign strongly in cue sports, the way he did in Doha with the billiards gold. He will compete in snooker too this time after failing to get selected for this event in 2006.
It will be up to Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza to beat the odds and possibly deliver the gold in tennis.
The challenge will be similar to the one the Indian men's hockey team will face. There is more hope in weightlifting not producing a positive dope result after stringent measures in recent times than producing a gold!
Can the athletes deliver?
The Indian athletes can turn it around with a rich haul as they did in such spectacular style in the Commonwealth Games at the packed Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
Will Tintu Luka, Om Prakash, Renjith Maheswary, Krishna Poonia and company rise to the occasion and trigger a golden spell? Time will tell.
Overall, it may be difficult for India to improve its gold tally as well as its overall collection of medals won in Doha, though the analysts of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), who have projected 74 to 108 medals for India and carefully avoided the gold count, may beg to differ.
Keywords: Asian Games 2010