Tenpin bowling battling a 'mall'ady

Last Updated 31 May 2020, 16:45 IST

Nearly three months after dreaming of the day of their return to the field, most athletes in India are back in training and loving it. That cheer, however, doesn’t extend to those involved in tenpin bowling as they can’t return to the lanes any time soon.

Since most bowling alleys in the country are situated in shopping malls, professional and amateur bowlers won’t be able to practice the sport until the government relaxes lockdown rules and allows for the operation of malls.

“The biggest problem is that most alleys are situated in malls,” points out Akaash Ashok Kumar, the reigning national tenpin champion. “The Covid-19 cases are only going up so I don’t think the government will open up malls any time soon, and that seriously hampers our chances of training.

"Unlike other sports, which have standalone facilities which are dedicated to a sport, bowling doesn’t have that luxury in India. All of them are open to the public and that in itself makes it harder. If they allow us to train in the mornings before the crowds come in, that’s our only chance,” he adds.

Dhruv Sarda, the former national champion who is based in New Delhi, says there isn’t a standalone bowling centre to train at in his city. “It’s tough, and I don’t see it getting better soon. I think we won’t get to train for a few more months. And as for tournaments, I don’t know when we will get to compete again,” he lamented. “I hope the government does something to help us because we will be among the last ones to start should this curfew on malls continue.”

Bengaluru does have a couple of standalone bowling centres, but even these are commercial enterprises which rely heavily on the public to generate revenue for their upkeep. “We can’t say anything at this point,” said Sharad, the head manager at Ameoba on Church Street. “We can perhaps open it up for the professionals early in the day but we have to wait for government clearance. We can’t run the place only for the bowlers.”

R Kannan, the Ten Pin Bowling Federation of India (TBFI) secretary, didn’t sound as perplexed by the predicament. In fact, he insisted that training should resume in July with a thorough Standard Operating Procedure in place.

“We normally have two people bowling in one lane and another two in the other. That’s how the sport goes. We’ll need to work around it,” says Kannan. “We can only have about six bowlers train at the venue at any given point in time.”

Since the lockdown, bowlers who are part of the national team have missed out on three international events and three state-level events, but that count is said to increase in the coming months.

“If you ask me, we will only be ready to play an international tournament next in April of next year at the Asian Indoor Championships. I don’t see any international action until then. The Asian Bowling Championships were scheduled to be held in the second week of July but they have been pushed to November but given the current scenario, I don’t think we’ll be able to participate in that either,” rued Kannan.

Standalone facility

As for the prospect of a standalone bowling facility for its professionals, Kannan didn’t find anything out of place in the Sports Authority of India focusing on Olympic sports and creating an infrastructure to help their cause.

“Of course we would love a centre of our own but that would need policy changes and the dynamics are different so that’s not something we want to and can get into at this moment,” he explains. “We are still an Asian Games sport and we can’t ask them to create something for us as this point. It is justified that we don’t have a facility.”

“… but it would be great if we could get some land on the massive SAI premises, around 10,000 to 15,000 square feet would be enough. Even better would be if we could get some land in the heart of the city like some of the other sports so as to be able to churn out more players. Also, at a time like this that would have meant we could have returned to training like other sports in the country.”

(Published 31 May 2020, 14:55 IST)

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