The ball was in their court

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The ball was in their court

This picture was taken on December 18, 1973, in the Central College campus. We had just won the All-India Inter-University Ball Badminton Championship held in Trichur Agricultural University, Kerala. I was representing Bangalore University with my teammates Shailaja, Sulochana, Rafseka, Padma, Saraswathi and Rukmini at the four-day event, which had both league and knockout matches.

We had the highest points in the league stage and entered the finals to beat Calicut University in style. Despite the temporary gallery stand collapsing on the opening day of the tournament, due to which 40 spectators were injured, there was a huge crowd to witness all the matches.

I have always been a sports-lover and enjoyed playing them from my school days. As a kid, I was also the girls’ guide and played hockey for the school team. When I reached standard eight, I joined RV School but unfortunately, they didn’t have hockey. So I took to ball badminton, a team sport that consists of five players. Before badminton gained popularity, this was played by many and I would always play in the right front position.

So much was my love for both hockey and ball badminton that I wanted to train professionally in either of the two. But training was expensive and my parents were reluctant to send me for coaching to places that were faraway. So I decided to learn ball badminton on my own. I’d take guidance from my seniors after school and my Kannada teacher — Sri Appanna Reddy Narayana Ghatta — would guide us diligently during practice. I was selected for the school team and took part in many inter-school competitions where our main rival used to be the team from Mahila Seva Samaj.

I joined Vijaya College for pre-university and degree and got selected for the college team there as well. I went on to represent the Bangalore University team and will always be grateful to the sports secretary in college, Mr K Rajagopalachar, who was also the head of department of Sanskrit. He encouraged all the sportspersons who represented the college, university and State.

Nagaraj, an employee of BEML who also played the sport during his younger days, used to always come to watch our inter-college finals. He even selected a few good performers and formed the ‘Pioneers Ball Badminton Club’. We would all look forward to the training at the grounds in Jayanagar 4th Block, which is now the BDA complex. He would also take us for the different inter-club tournaments, not only in Bengaluru but also in Tumakuru, Mandya, Mysuru and Chikkamagaluru.

Many of the tournaments in the City used to take place on the grounds of BMS College of Engineering, National College, Mahila Seva Samaj or Vijaya College. The camaraderie that we all shared those days was such that the stands would always be packed with a number of fellow sportspersons.

Coming back to the All-India Inter-University Ball Badminton Championship, a grand welcome awaited us in college with all the players being felicitated in the assembly in front of the whole college and a parade being held in our honour with us holding the shield.

Even the University did its fair share to recognise our effort as we were felicitated by the Physical Education director of Bangalore University in Central College. Till date, the sweet sounds of victory ring in my ears.

Sudharshini
(The author can be reached at  sudha.gurukhar@gmail.com)

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