Tokyo: As the rifles and pistols have started misfiring on the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo, the knives are out.
Moments after Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhury's ouster from the 10m air pistol mixed team event, National Rifle Association of India chief Raninder Singh, stating that the "period of ransom is over", said that the federation would be going for an overhaul of the Indian coaching team staff.
"At the end of the day, the only thing I can say is I cannot excuse non-performance," Raninder told journalists at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo on Tuesday. "We are going to see an overhaul of the Indian coaching staff for sure. We are no longer going to be held at ransom. The period of ransom is over."
When asked to elaborate, he offered only that the "Olympics are over", but did not clarify who was holding the NRAI to ransom or what he meant by it.
Raninder said that everyone would be evaluated in the aftermath of the Tokyo Olympics.
"Everybody will be evaluated. You think it is only the athlete who will be evaluated? Even I will be evaluated as the president of the NRAI. No one is indispensable," he said before answering in the affirmative to a question on whether he was under pressure as NRAI chief.
Before the 10m air rifle mixed team event on Tuesday afternoon (Japan Standard Time) only Saurabh Chaudhury had made it to the final of an event. He too crashed out with a seventh-place finish on the second day of the event, after qualifying on top of the standings.
Soon after Raninder's conversation with the journalists on Tuesday, both Indian pairs also crashed out of the 10m air rifle events. While Saurabh-Manu made it to the second qualification stage, they finished seventh out of eight teams and did not make it to the medal playoff matches. The other three pairs, Abhishek Verma-Yashaswini Singh Deswal (mixed pistol), Divyansh Panwar-Elavenil (mixed rifle), and Anjum Moudgil-Deepak Kumar (mixed rifle) did not even make to the second round of qualification.
Later in the day, observing that there were still some events left for Indian shooters to compete in, he stated in a press release that "post-mortems could wait until after the Games."
Indian shooters are still in the fray in the 25m pistol events and the 50m 3P rifle events. But the 10m events were widely thought of as India's best bets for medals at the deferred Tokyo Games.
Coming into the Tokyo Olympics, many of Indian shooters were in hot form, but then the Olympics were deferred by a year, throwing everything out of gear. The absence of Chinese and South Korean shooters in many meets also lent a sense of false security.
Raninder requested for some semblance of perspective considering the young ages of some of the Indian shooters.
"Remember most of them are 19 or 20 somethings. These are not adults even yet. Some of them have fallen prey to the infamous Olympic pressure. There's nothing else I can say. If you see today's performance, for example, there was an Olympic record score in qualification. This is not a joke. Then to go 10 minutes later and one of them shoots rather poorly, it's very inexplainable in a way," said Raninder, who went on to add: "Manu felt it today. But you cannot string her up on a lamppost, yaar."
The sport of shooting has been viewed as one of India's top medal-fetching events at the Olympics. Since Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver in double trap at Athens 2004, the Indian shooters have gone from strength to strength, winning India's first individual gold ever at the Olympics in 2008 and winning two more medals at 2012.
In the aftermath of the Rio Olympics debacle, where Indian shooters could not win any medals, the NRAI set up a review committee to figure out what went wrong with the Indian shooters in Brazil's capital.
"We have done whatever that was humanly possible in the preparation for these Tokyo Games. We have followed to the T the recommendations of that committee. Those were very sound and deep analysis after Rio," he said.
Going into Tokyo, there was a lot of focus on the young Manu, who was the only one from the Indians entered into three events. Two of those, both 10m air pistol events, have come and gone sans medals. This has brought the spotlight on her falling out with coach Jaspal Rana in the months leading up to Tokyo 2020.
"There was one person who was the negative factor in the whole thing. I am referring to Jaspal Rana. There was some wrangling among coaches before Croatia, there was some during the World Cup in New Delhi and before that a lot of internal wrangling in the pistol squad among coaches," said Raninder.
The NRAI president claimed that things got so bad between the coaching mentor and protÃ©gÃ© that when she sent him a message, Rana copied that on a white T-shirt and paraded that on the range. Eventually, to prevent the situation from descending even further, Raninder claims he brought Manu's family together with Jaspal but they did not work.
"It's not just Jaspal, the other side also was not willing to work with him because of various instances that they both cited. The girl said something, the family said something, Jaspal in his defence said something. I tried twice " once during the World Cup and once after that," said Raninder.
He added that while the whole incident has had an effect on Manu, the performance of the Indian shooting contingent at Tokyo cannot be pinned on that one single equation between coach and his ward.