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Delhi Games vie with Mohali cricket test for eyeballs

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Marksmen Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang will have to jostle for Wednesday’s headlines with cricketer Vangipurappu Laxman despite winning India’s first gold medal in the Delhi Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.

Abhinav Bindra of India (L) and compatriot Gagan Narang pose with their gold medals after they won the men's 10m pairs air rifle shooting competition at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi October 5, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur

While the 10m air rifle pair were shooting down the gold at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting range, Laxman was leading India to a thrilling one-wicket test victory over Australia some 265 kilometers away in Mohali.

In a country where industrial productivity takes a beating every time the cricket team walks out to play, the shooters will have to share the column space with the cricketer from Hyderabad.

The clash between cricket and Commonwealth Games was avoidable but Indian cricket bosses rejected the worried organizers’ request to reschedule the two-test series.

Olympic champion Bindra was optimistic that his feat would not go unsung and cricket, for once, would take a back seat.

“The Commonwealth Games will definitely dominate coverage,” said the babyfaced shooter. “I would like to live under the illusion that this gold will be on the front pages tomorrow.”

He could not have asked for tougher competition in attracting Wednesday’s headlines than Laxman’s heroics.

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The stylish cricketer braved back pain to guide India to a dramatic victory in the test which rival captains Ricky Ponting and Mahendra Singh Dhoni rated as one of the best they have played in.

Cricket chiefs also turned down the cash-strapped organizers’ request to stump up $22 million and come on board as a lead partner of the Games.

With disappointing turnouts at the Games venues so far, former test cricket Maninder Singh does not see it as a direct clash between cricket and Commonwealth Games.

“I don’t think scheduling of the cricket series actually matters,” he told Reuters. “I’m not sure how many people would go to the stadium in the next three-four days when there is no cricket match. Let’s be honest, cricket will rule the roost.

“I have been swapping channels all day to catch both the Commonwealth Games and the Mohali test and I know there are many who did the same,” said the former left-arm spinner.

“The Mohali test was one of the best I have seen and Laxman? ... What a player!”

The second test starts on October 9 in Bangalore, while the Commonwealth Games close on October 14.

Additional reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Pritha Sarkar