A certain popular, parental bull-headedness drives our schoolboys into cricket academies which engender dreams of Indian Premier League millions, if not a berth in the international game.
Fresh from their Asian record-shattering performance at the World Championships in Budapest last week, the Indian men’s 4x400m relay team is oozing confidence of a stellar show at the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou next month.
The famed quartet of Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Muhammed Ajmal Variyathodi, and Rajesh Ramesh broke the Asian record, clocking 2:59.05 seconds to take the team to its first-ever World Championship final last week.
In the final, the team finished a credible fifth, by clocking 2:59.92, thus making them the hot favorites for the gold medal at the continental sporting event in the Chinese city.
“Definitely, (it) will be hard for us to get 2:58 (because) we won’t get that much challenge from anyone else at the Asian Games. Everyone will be looking at us,” Jacob said during an online interaction with selected media.
On being asked about their toughest opponents at the Asian Games, Jacob said, “I think Japan will be competitive, they have three 44 runners. Don’t know about the timings, anything can happen on that day.”
Reflecting on their performance in the final in Budapest, Jacob felt that the Indian team’s timing could have been slightly better had they not faced a few blocks in the second and third legs of the race.
“The major drawback was Ajmal jumping over the Botswana guy otherwise if he hadn’t fallen we would have clocked 2:58. In the second leg also I got blocked, I tried to catch them till 200m, I went all out but then I got tired,” he said.
Ajmal said it was the small things that didn’t go their way in the final.
“We had set a target to finish the race at sub 3 min, we were happy with the heat but couldn’t do it in the final, there were small things that led to us not being able to achieve it, but to be able to do that in the heats, gives us confidence for Asian Games,” he said.
Sharing about their pre-race conversation, Amoj said, “Before the Heats, we were planning to run 2:58. Our coach had a plan for us and told us the order of Anas, me, Ajmal, and Rajesh. He asked to run without any pressure and just focus on qualifying.”
“After the race, we took some time in recovery as our physio was awake with us. Before the final, our coach asked us to give a bit more than our Heat. We tried but few blockings happened in the race and we finished fifth,” he added.
“We have recovered from the World Championships. We have another competition on the 10th and we are focusing on that. All of us are in good shape now and will remain the same hopefully,” he added.
Anas, a member of the 2018 Asian Games gold-winning 4x400m mixed relay team, said that a recent tweak in the baton exchange technique has helped them become quicker.
“Rajmohan sir has changed the baton exchange a little recently. It helped to exchange the baton a little quicker than before, that small tweak has made the team more confident in the relay aspect,” Anas said.
The quartet also revealed that it was their off-field camaraderie that helped them pull off a stunning show in Budapest, and left the Dutch, Jamaican and English runners in awe of their performance.
“We plan to go out together after this interview,” Anas joked before adding, “We hang out together and stay together as a team. There is a lot of camaraderie between us. If I am making some mistake, we will talk about it and try to fix it at the next opportunity. Our bond helps us on the track.”