From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.31 :: NO.48 :: Nov. 29, 2008


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‘You need passion for the game’

The basketball legend, Robert Parish, believes players from India can make it to the NBA League.


Robert Parish warms up before commencing his training for players in Bangalore.

Can an Indian basketball player ever make it to the NBA League? Many would scoff at the idea, but NBA legend, Robert Parish, believes it is quite possible.

“You need a heart and passion for the game; and the right knowledge. The Indian players have that in plenty,” said Parish, who is an NBA icon. He has played over 1,000 games and represented some of the best outfits such as the Boston Celti cs and the Chicago Bulls. He was also a member of the NBA All Star team and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Parish was in Bangalore recently to conduct a specialised training programme for the Indian coaches and players, under the auspices of the NBA and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). He was quite perplexed as to why the game has not really taken off in India. “Given your huge base and the numbers, there should be no problem for this game to become popular and as big as cricket,” Parish said.

He was of the view that a progressive and streamlined administrative set-up can set the ball rolling in India. “The top priority should be to create the right awareness about the game. Once there is awareness and interest among the public, the game develops. You need to have more tournaments, something like a professional schedule of programme, as in NBA, which can run for at least six months a year with wide media coverage and corporate support.

“All these things take time, but these are the prerequisites for the development of the game in the country,” stressed Parish.

But the biggest challenge that Indian basketball faces is dearth of qualified coaches. In this respect, the initiative of the NBA and BFI in organising the ‘Train the Trainers’ programme could be of huge help. “Once the coaches have the right knowledge and teach proper fundamentals to their wards, the quality of the game goes up,” Parish said.

The game, according to the NBA legend, should also become a viable proposition to players, coaches and all those who are connected with it. “Nobody does it free, and unless the game proves to be a financially attractive career option, it is difficult to take roots in the country. A lot can be done by the sponsors and the media in this respect, and once the game is taken to the masses, everything would fall into place,” Parish said.

Parish has a lot of great memories to cherish from the game, which has given him everything in life. “The list is endless — the first time I signed up for the Boston Celtics, our first NBA win, the time I became All Star trooper and when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The game has given me everything. I wish that for everyone here,” he said.

Parish has promised to visit India again with a few more NBA stars.

* * *

Indu Puri is back

The former National table tennis champion, Indu Puri, 55, is back in the game she loves so dearly — as an observer.

Indu, who has won the National title a record eight times, was offered the job as an ‘observer’ by the Union Sports Ministry and she gladly accepted it. The inter-institutional championship in Nagpur in August was her first assignment and the National ranking tournament (East Zone) in Bolpur (West Bengal) her second. “Please don’t think I am here as a reformer. My task strictly conforms to the term ‘observer’,” Indu said. “I am just making my observations and reporting. It is for the authorities to bring in any changes, if they like,” she added.

The system of government-appointed observers was not given much importance earlier since the federations nominated their own people. This has changed now, with former champions, with impeccable records, being entrusted the job of assessing the activities in different sports. In table tennis, for instance, there is a second observer — two-time former men’s National champion, Mir Kasim Ali.

“One of us will be present at all tournaments. Our job is to provide an objective picture,” Indu said. “I try to be positive in my reports. If I spot a promising talent, I’ll mention his or her name in my report. Or if I find something lacking on the organisational side, I’ll point it out and suggest ways to rectify it,” she added.

The Arjuna Award winner, who won her last National title in Calcutta in 1985, was worried that there were not many outstanding talents in sight. “The standard is more or less average, anyone can win here,” said Indu, who had the longest reign at the top in women’s table tennis in India — from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s.

* * *

Muniyappa ends title drought

For C. Muniyappa, the 31-year-old pro from Bangalore, it was a dream come true in the Altis Toyota Open Golf Championship — held at the Eagleton course in Bangalore recently — when he lifted the trophy and a cheque worth Rs. 3.25 lakhs with a brilliant six under par in the final round.

It has always been a case of so near and yet so far for Muniyappa this season. But his maiden professional title came well within his grasp at the Toyota Open when he shot into joint lead with local lad, Anirban Lahiri, in the third round. It then took a tremendous effort from Muniyappa to ward off a stiff challenge from the contender from Australia, Kunal Bhasin, and emerge winner with an impressive score of 19 under 269.

It was indeed a moment to savour for Muniyappa, who had turned pro in 1996. The Toyota Open triumph also helped the golfer climb from 11th position to 10th on the PGTI Order of Merit.

Muniyappa, whose previous best performance on the PGTI was a joint second place in Pune in September this year, said: “It’s been one of the most memorable days of my golfing career. I learnt from my past mistakes and did not give away my lead on the final day. This win will hopefully help me raise the level of my game.”

Muniyappa made a solid start in the final round as he birdied the first hole. However, on the fourth, he suffered a setback, dropping a bogey. But he recovered thereafter, with a birdie on the fifth, eagle on the seventh and two successive birdies on the ninth and 10th. Though a poor second shot on the 11th led to his second bogey of the day, Muniyappa scored birdies on the 15th and 17th to round off a brilliant day.

Kunal Bhasin (71, 65, 69, 67) registered his best finish on the PGTI, coming second. His total moved to 16 under 272 after he fired five under 67 in the final round. The professional from Brisbane was all set to give Muniyappa a run for his money as he climbed steadily on the leaderboard till the 10th hole, having birdied the first, fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th. But a bogey on the 12th slowed Bhasin down. Thereafter, he could only manage a birdie on the 15th. Another bogey on the 16th put him out of contention. Mukesh Kumar (68, 67, 70, 69), despite finishing fourth with a total of 14 under 274, continues to lead the PGTI Order of Merit.

Bangalore lad S. Chikkarangappa (71, 68, 66, 74) won the amateur title with a total of nine under 279.

In the South India Ladies Championship held a week later at the Bangalore Golf Course (the course length was shortened to make it a 69-par event due to the construction of the Metro Rail project nearby), Gauri Monga of Delhi won the title in the Gold Division with a 17 over par 293. She carded six over on the final day. In the Silver Division, (handicap 13-25), local lass Renuka Philip maintained her lead throughout the tournament to win with a total of 333. Shardha Swamy Rao (296) emerged winner in the Bronze division.

* * *

Boosting handball

Though handball is still a nascent sport in Tamil Nadu, the current set of office-bearers of the state body, led by President M. Ramasubramani and Secretary A. Saravanan, has been taking pains to get the sport better organised. Apart from ensuring that teams are sent to the various National meets, the biggest success that the TNHA (Tamil Nadu Handball Association) has had in recent times was getting its own office premises, courtesy SDAT (Sports Development Authority of Ta mil Nadu), and an outdoor court in the Nehru indoor stadium complex.

The association’s plans have indeed given handball a boost in the state. Two things happened soon after these happy tidings. First, a National camp for women, in preparation for the Asian Championship in Bangkok, was held. Then, in recognition of the TNHA’s work, the National women’s championship was allotted to the state.

“Even though the indoor stadium was the main venue for the championship the outdoor court came in handy to stage some of the matches in the league phase,” said Ramasubramani, who was later nominated by the Handball Federation of India to be the chief of the women’s contingent to the Asian Championship.

But for all this, the state team did not come up with any surprises at the Nationals. The results largely panned out on expected lines, though last year’s runner-up Manipur fading out here was a surprise. Holder Railways extended its lease on the championship, winning the trophy for the fourth time. Delhi was second. The margin of victory, 44-29, underlined the supremacy of the Railways, which had at least four India players.

By Kalyan Ashok, Amitabha Das Sharma & S.R. Suryanarayan

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