When India’s lawn bowls team touched down in the United Kingdom a week before the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it didn’t have training access at the rinks in Victoria Park, Leamington Spa. The fact that the side hasn’t had a coach for a while didn’t help either.
“We didn’t know what to do then. We searched on the internet where the nearest bowling clubs were. We called quite a few of them, but they were all too expensive,” Sunil Bahadur, member of the men’s team, told Sportstar.
But on Tuesday, the Indian women — Rupa Rani Tirkey, Pinki, Lovely Choubey, and Nayanmoni Saikia — scripted history by winning the country’s first-ever gold medal in lawn bowls. South Africa began poorly, not able to register a single point for five consecutive Ends. The scoreline read 8-2 in India’s favour after End 7 when Esme Kruger’s smart thinking, combined with accurate attempts, got South Africa going. It even led 10-8 after 11 Ends. However, the Indians prevailed in the end.
The incredible win wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Michael Spiro, a north Londoner. The president of the Bishopswood Bowling Club in Norrice Lea, Spiro, agreed to accommodate the Indian contingent for free.
“They didn’t charge a penny from us. Nothing asked,” Navneet Singh, a member of the Indian team says.
Spiro, in attendance during the women’s fours finals, said, “They were surprised that we didn’t charge them. For us, it is not a revenue strip. We are a ‘not for profit’ club. We collect fees from members to cover the running cost of the club. They came here and made us feel good. That was payment enough.”
Hard to believe
Spiro found it difficult to believe most of the members of the Indian team started bowling only in 2007 at the National Games in Guwahati, while preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
“That is unbelievable what they have achieved then. They are first-class bowlers,” Spiro says.
For Spiro, the attitude of the Indians appealed to him the most. “There were some other teams who wanted to be at our club, but they wanted exclusivity. They wanted nobody else to play with them, watch them or be there at the clubhouse. India didn’t ask for anything like that. If they would have, maybe the attitude would have been different. We’ve got signed shirts of the champions now,” he says.
The first thing that team manager Anju Luthra did after her wards clinched the gold medal with a final score of 17-10 was to rush over to Spiro and Co. and thank them with a small packet of dry fruits.
“Yeah, didn’t I already tell you they are a bunch of lovely people?” Spiro smiled.