Making a mark in the tough world

Sindhu Sreenath says women can do well even in the physical sport of rugby

Sindhu Sreenath... deviating from the beaten path.

Through her transit from athletics to college basketball and then to the national rugby squad the Bangalorean has striven to reshape the perception about the rough and tumble world of rugby. Sindhu, a member of the Indian team that finished runner-up in the four-nation Borneo Sevens tournament at Kotakini Baklu in Malaysia recently, feels there has been an improvement in the way the sport is viewed by women.

“We have come a long way so far as the game is concerned, but a lot can be done to improve the state of rugby in our country. Kerala and Pune have the best women’s rugby teams in India but with more participation, Bangalore will surely be on the map,” says Sindhu.

Sindhu might have made headlines for being the only Bangalorean in the Indian squad but there is more to this vibrant 23-year-old software analyst at Intel than her skills on the rugby pitch. A sprinter and high jumper in her early school days, Sindhu moved to shot put and then heptathlon. She represented the State schools athletics team but her biggest jump, going by its contribution to what she is now, came when she took up basketball in college. PESIT College of Engineering has, perhaps, one of the best basketball courts in Bangalore and the lanky girl made swift progress. Jump shots came easy, drive-ins were a matter of intent and soon, she was representing the State at the 2003 Junior National championships in Ludhiana.
“I might not look the type but I played post for my team. I did exceedingly well and got into the VTU team the call up for the State side came in 2003. I was sure I was going to make it. I just did not know when,” said Sindhu.

The switch to rugby was certainly not part of the plan though. She tried the sport thanks to a friend who plays for the Bangalore Rugby Football Union and the desire to make an impact on an entirely different sport did the rest. The tricks of the trade were hard to learn, but her athleticism enabled her to make an impact as she gained a place in the Bangalore team for an all-India ten-a-side tournament in Delhi.

“The start was not the most auspicious one. I stitched together a story which would go well with my parents -- telling them that I was going for a basketball tournament.
“We did considerably well there finishing fourth among the 14 teams in the fray and in the process, beating teams from Bombay Gymkhana and even Kerala. But we lost to Pune and Orissa, who we had beaten earlier, in the final leg of the tournament. There were rules most of us were still not aware of fully but I am happy with the way we performed.”

After the tournament, two girls from Karnataka — Sindhu and Suman Chunagi — were selected for the national camp in Balewadi, Pune. Sindhu impressed during the drills at Pune to book her place in the Indian team.

“I had been playing rugby for only about two months then and it was a surprise. We did rather well. Guam failed to turn up, which meant there were three teams left and we ended up playing each other twice. We beat Malaysia both times but lost to Thailand both in the league and in the final as well,” said Sindhu.

Having made an impact, Sindhu now hopes the message will spread, with more girls taking up the sport.

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