Cricket was his first love but destiny wanted him to be a shooter. Sheeraz Sheikh, who represented Uttar Pradesh at junior level cricket, will now be representing India in skeet shooting in his maiden Commonwealth Games, to be held in Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4. The cricketer-turned-shooter scored 122/125 and 121/125 in the qualifications to earn a Games ticket. With his current form, the youngster will be the one of the medal contenders at the quadrennial event.
Sheeraz is training under 1996 Olympics gold medallist Ennio Falco, who showed confidence in the 26-year-old shooter and gave him a chance despite not being in the merit list. An experiment paid dividends as Sheeraz not only scored a good number in the qualification but also edged past Jesper Hansen of Denmark, a more seasoned shooter, in the shootout to enter the final.
During his junior level cricketing days, Sheeraz played alongside Indian cricketers Karn Sharma and Piyush Chawla.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) announced the full quota of 27 shooters (25 men and 12 women) after the Organising Committee of the Games reduced the country quotas across all sports.
India had fielded 30 shooters in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bagged 17 medals (4 Gold, 9 Silver, 4 Bronze).
Though most of the disciplines will happen in Gold Coast, shooting will be held at the Belmont Shooting Centre in Brisbane from April 8 to 14. There will be nine men's and eight women's events in the disciplines of rifle, pistol and shotgun.
At Gold Coast, Sheeraz will be shooting alongside the experienced shotgun shooters Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mohd Asab and Ankur Mittal.