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Can England overhaul India in medals table?

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Matthew Pinsent | 09:55 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

Maybe it's the second-week blues, perhaps it's because my only direct comparison for the Commonwealth Games is with the Olympics but it seems hard to shake the idea that the home nations are not going to finish in Delhi on a high.

As of Monday morning, there were still 79 nine gold medals to be decided, out of a total of 272 spread across the four remaining days.

There is still plenty of scope to change the medal tally but I'm not sure that England are going to keep their almost-traditional second placing, behind runaway leaders Australia.

The Aussies have competed in every edition of the Commonwealths, going back to Hamilton in 1930, and have finished top of the standings in each Games since 1986 in Edinburgh.

At home in Melbourne in 2006, they finished with a total of 221 medals, 84 of them gold. By my shaky maths they have to win another 20 or so golds to maintain their performance of four years ago.

The most improved prize by some margin goes to hosts India. They have never finished in the top three in a Commonwealth medal table and I'm increasingly sure they will finish second here.

Their previous best was 30 golds in Manchester in 2002. That is a total they're likely to pass with days to spare and I'm sure they can get more than 100 medals in total which even taking into account the usual host nation effect is extraordinary.

There was a theory that many of the Indian's strongest sports took place in the first week but, with two more full days of shooting, both hockey competitions and boxing entering the medal rounds, I can't see them slowing down any time before the closing ceremony.

On the face of it England have slipped back in performance but the numbers are not all bad. In 2006, they won 110 medals in all - a number sure to be exceeded.

But the ratio of gold to silver does not make such good reading. In 2006 England won 36 golds and 40 silvers, compared to 54 golds and 52 second-places in 2002. Here in Delhi, the silver tally seems big already but the number of winners is going to be well down.

It's not hard to find superficial answers. England had some high profile withdrawals, some of whom were nailed on shots at winning Commonwealth titles.

In cycling, all the home nations have used Delhi as a chance to blood a new crop of talent, primarily because Olympic qualification has changed, making competing in Delhi risky for the likes of Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

Scotland have had a great couple of days, pulling themselves back up the table but are unlikely to get to the 11 gold level they set in Melbourne. Chances remain for them in bowls and medals are assured in the boxing - colours to be decided.

Wales and Northern Ireland are at about level pegging with their performances in previous editions of the Commonwealths but, with relatively low numbers, one big performance can change a whole lot.

Wales are hoping that Nicole Cooke can do something special in Wednesday's cycling time trial and have boxers in the mix at the Talkatora Stadium.

The real story remains with India - from the boxing hall to the shooting, archery to wrestling they've been a new force. I've seen some of their performances live and each and every one of those has made the hairs on my arms stand up - the perfect combination of massive home support and massive talent.

I hope one of the real legacies of the Commonwealths is that India shake off the reputation as perennial under-performers.

Too often questions have to be asked as to why India doesn't do better. Poverty, lack of funding and lack of school sport are all pointed out. India's Olympic record - hockey aside - remains abject. Abhinav Bhindra remains the nation's only individual gold medallist in Olympic history - that's something that has to change come London 2012.

I for one hope that come the supporters chanting "India, India!" in Delhi are doing so again in 2012.


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