The Indian marksmen Major Praveen Dahiya and Major Amit Khanna warmed up for the tougher challenges ahead with a good performance as they shot 48 and 47 respectively in the first phase of the Queen's Pairs event in the Commonwealth Shooting full bore championship at the CRPF range, Kadarpur, on Tuesday.

The morale boosting start was facilitated by the fact that the distance was 300 yards, not such a big challenge for the Indian duo, who had competed in the 300-metre competition on the first two days.

The combined effort of the Indian duo was good enough only for a eighth place for India among as many teams after the first stage of the five stage competition, that will feature competition over 500, 600, 900 and 1000 yards over the next four days.

What struck the Indian pair, despite the smart start, was the fact that as many as 12 shooters shot perfect rounds of 50, while three had 49, from among the 22 in fray.

“It is interesting to plot the wind map. We are grateful to the NRAI and T.S. Dhillon for getting us this opportunity to compete in such an event for the first time in our career,” said Major Dahiya.

It was indeed a breakthrough moment for the host, after all the apprehension and limitations.

Major Khanna said that it was some experience to match the best, as the difference was marginal, but conceded that it would undoubtedly be a learning experience as the match progresses to longer distances.

Manager T.S. Dhillon underlined the fact that it was important to get the Indian shooters a taste of the competition to get them going straightaway in preparation for the real challenge in the Commonwealth Games to be staged in October.

Australia, quite the favourite in the absence of England, was on top with 250 points along with New Zealand. Malaysia and Wales followed with 247.5 points each, while Northern Ireland, Jersey and South Africa had 245 points each ahead of India's 237.5.

In the concurrently held individual event, in which India could not field its team, owing to limited arrangement of equipment, Gareth Morris of Wales led with 85 points, along with Geoffrey Grenfell and James Corbett of Australia, James Paton of Canada, Ross McQuillan of Northern Ireland and Brian Carter of New Zealand.

With six more on 84 points, it could be anybody's game.

There were as many as 20 shooters in the fray for the individual event, much below normal as England and Scotland could not make the trip owing to volcanic ash upsetting the flight schedules in Europe.

In the individual event, the shooters had seven shots in stage one, and 10 shots in stage two. It would be interesting to see how well the shooters, particularly from new entrant India, fare over 500 yards on Wednesday.

The organisers were busy trying to paint the numbers on the wall beyond 1,000 yards, as the numbers already in existence below the targets would be dwarfed when the targets move to the farthest slots on the last two days.

Along with the Indian shooters, it has been a learning experience for the host in terms of organisation, and every effort has been made to meet the challenges and put up a good fare.

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