Two sports disciplines including esports, which is becoming a rage among youngsters across the globe, will make their debut at the Asian Games as Hangzhou prepares to host the quadrennial extravaganza later this month. Originally scheduled to take place last year, the continental showpiece will commence on September 23 with esports along with breakdancing making an entry into the curriculum as the Games expand to 40 sports (61 disciplines) spread over venues across six districts.
The decision to include esports and breakdancing in the Asian Games programme came as late as December 2020, while chess and cricket will return to the continental showpiece after the 2010 Guangzhou and 2014 Incheon Games respectively.
SPORTS MAKING A DEBUT IN HANGZHOU
ESPORTS: It was added as a demonstration event during the 2018 Asian Games and, following the buzz it created in Jakarta, the decision to include it as a full-fledged medal event in the Hangzhou edition was taken.
Esports mimics the experience of watching professional sporting event, except that instead of watching a physical event, spectators watch video gamers compete against each other.
Competition in seven video games — Dota 2, FIFA Online 4, League of Legends, Arena of Valour, Dream Three Kingdoms, PUBG Mobile and Street Fighter 5 — will take place at the China Hangzhou Esports Centre.
India is sending a strong all-male 15-member contingent that includes stalwarts such as Charanjot Singh, Krish Gupta and Ketan Goyal, among others. India’s best chances of a medal are in FIFA Online 4, where they are ranked 13th in the world and third in Asia behind Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
Squad: FIFA Online 4: Charanjot Singh and Karman Singh Tikka; Street Fighter V: Mayank Prajapati and Ayan Biswas; Sanindhya Malik, Mihir Ranjan, Aditya Selvaraj, Aakash Shandilya and Akshaj Shenoy and Samarth Arvind Trivedi; DOTA 2: Darshan Bata, Krish Gupta, Abhishek Yadav, Ketan Goyal and Shubham Goli.
BREAKDANCING: The sport, also known as ‘breaking’, will give exponents from Asia the much-needed exposure ahead of next year’s Paris Olympic Games, where it will debut as a medal sport.
While critics have mixed opinion whether it is a sport or a dance form, the fact that it is now part of both the Asian Games and Olympic Games curriculum means the Olympic Council of Asia and the International Olympic Committee have recognised it as a discipline that straddles the line between sport and art form.
“Breaking” blends artistry and dance with acrobatic moves and was announced as part of the Paris programme in late 2020. There will be two events contested at Hangzhou Asian Games — men’s and women’s breaking.
India will go unrepresented in the competition as the sports ministry did not clear a four-member contingent for not fulfilling the selection criterion.
CHESS, CRICKET MAKING A RE-ENTRY
CHESS: The game of 64 squares will be making a much-anticipated comeback into the Asian Games after 13 years. Its inclusion after missing out from the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games couldn’t have come at better time for India given that its band of young players, including the likes of R Praggnanandhaa, D Gukesh and Arjun Erigaisi, have hogged limelight of late.
Chess was contested at the 2006 Doha Asian Games where India topped the medals tally with two gold in women’s individual rapid (Koneru Humpy) and mixed team standard (Krishnan Sasikiran, Pentala Harikrishna and Koneru Humpy). India had a far-from-convincing outing at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games with the county managing two bronze.
But following the sparkling performance by the men’s trio at the FIDE World Cup recently, and an incredibly strong contingent announced by the All India Chess Federation, the Indians can look forward to recreating the Doha magic.
There will be four events in the discipline at Hangzhou: men’s individual rapid, women’s individual rapid, men’s team rapid and women’s team rapid.
China and India will be the two strongest contenders. The current world champion, China’s Ling Diren, will be one of the favourites for the top podium place, alongside Vidit Gujrathi, Gukesh, Erigaisi FIDE World Cup silver medallist Pragganandhaa.
Squad: Men: D Gukesh, Vidit Gujrathi, Arjun Erigaisi, Pentala Harikrishna, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. Women: Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Vaishali Rameshbabu, Vantika Agrawal, Savitha Shri B.
CRICKET: The sport is returning to the Asian Games after being left out in 2018 Jakarta. Cricket was part of two editions of the continental games – 2010 Guangzhou and 2014 Incheon – but the BCCI did not field its teams citing prior commitments.
But this time around, India will be sending both the men’s and women’s teams, who will compete in 20-over format. The men’s team will be led by Ruturaj Gaikwad, while the women’s side will be captained by Harmanpreet Kaur.
Squad (Men): Ruturaj Gaikwad (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rahul Tripathi, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Ravi Bishnoi, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Shivam Mavi, Shivam Dube, Prabhsimran Singh (wicket-keeper). Standby players: Yash Thakur, Sai Kishore, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Sai Sudarsan.
Squad (Women): Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh (wk), Amanjot Kaur, Devika Vaidya, Anjali Sarvani, Titas Sadhu, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Minnu Mani, Kanika Ahuja, Uma Chetry (wk), Anusha Bareddy. Standby players: Harleen Deol, Kashvee Gautam, Sneh Rana, Saika Ishaque, Pooja Vastrakar.
TEAMS THAT MISSED OUT
The softball squad wasn’t as lucky as the men’s and women’s football teams as the Sports Ministry did not give the 16-member contingent the clearance to compete at the Asian Games.
Softball Association of India had in July announced a 16-member women’s team, which, had it been cleared, would have made its debut at the Asian Games.
But the contingent, along with men’s handball, water polo and 5×5 basketball teams, were withdrawn as they could not achieve the ministry’s criteria of a ranking of up to eighth among participating countries of Asia in the last one year to be considered for participation in the continental showpiece.
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