From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.12 :: Mar. 21, 2009

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CITY LIGHTS

The pride of Anantapur

Unlike many other sports infrastructure in the country that lie mostly unused, the sports village here is active almost right through the year.

DASARI NAGAPPA

The trainees of the Rural Development Trust’s Hockey Academy practise on the gravel field at the Anantapur Sports Village.

The Anantapur Sports Village (ASV), located alongside the National Highway 7, has all the makings of a major sports destination. The Anantapur Cricket Ground (featured in these columns earlier), no doubt, enjoys the pride of place in the 40-acre spread, but the other facilities here do not lag behind either. That the complex is managed by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), an NGO, is commendable, but where it scores is in the maintenance. Unlike other infrastructure, say in Hyderabad or Pune where they lie mostly unused, there’s activity here, almost right through the year.

A brainchild of RDT’s Associate Programme Director Moncho Ferrer, each arena has come up after careful consideration, its upkeep meticulously done and the resources judiciously utilised.

The infrastructure is a sports aficionado’s delight. After passing the ACG, one comes across a football-cum-athletic field, with a pavilion and an eight-lane track. In the adjoining area is a gravel hockey field. On the other side are two volleyball courts. Further down is another cricket ground, its lush-green surface defying the onslaught of the sun that blazes almost right through the year.

In contrast to the impressive facilities, ASV Director Medabalimi Thomasaiah’s modesty is striking. “For a town as small as Anantapur, the accommodation here is appreciated the most,” he says. Not surprising too, for the events the ASV has hosted include Ranji Trophy, National and South Zone women’s cricket matches, junior National basketball, the Fr. Vincent Ferrer National senior ranking tennis and the AP State table tennis tournaments. Even international cricketers, the prima donnas of Indian sports, have been full of praise for their enjoyable stays here.

Sixteen well-furnished dormitories at the ACG can comfortably lodge 160 players and the attached cafeteria can seat 200. Nine air-conditioned two-bedroom VIP cottages, equipped with television sets and refrigerators, are located at one corner. Pandameru, the neighbouring block, has 11 two-bedroom suites each on two floors, also with air-conditioning and TV sets. Chitravathi next door has a dozen three-bedded rooms and a couple of two-bedded rooms with similar amenities.

Two matting and five turf strips comprise the nets in addition to portable pitches, borne on the back of a truck, which can be laid out at almost any place offering enough run-up space for the bowlers. Coach Sagar Chowdary oversees the cricket training programmes, along with Manager B. R. Prasanna, a qualified zonal level umpire and NIS certified cricket coach while curator K. Madhu looks after the cricket grounds.

Narendra Luther, also an NIS qualified athletics coach, monitors schemes in his pet discipline, besides managing the well-equipped RDT Gymnasium, where V. M. Kishore Kumar and K. P. Bhaskar are the instructors. The former’s lower limbs are paralysed and he uses crutches to move about. The ASV also has a state of the art auditorium that can seat 50. The auditorium is equipped with Bose audio systems and a projector.

* * *

TALENTED TANIA



Tania Sachdev plays simultaneous matches with the finalists of the Ascendas Championship in Bangalore.

What Sania is to tennis, Tania is to chess. The winsome lass with looks and talent has been making waves with her consistency and she looks forward to winning more laurels.

The 22-year-old Delhiite, who was in Bangalore recently as the chief guest for the Ascendas corporate chess event, was looking forward to defending her Asian title in the Philippines in May. Tania, as an eight-year-old, won her maiden junior international title and became the youngest player to do so and got into the Limca Book of Records. She later went on to win the Asian and World junior titles. Her crowning moment came later when she became an International Master and Woman Grandmaster.

“My goals are far from over and I wish to win the World Cup,” said Tania. That desire has been fuelled by her participation in the Chess Olympiad last year which, according to her, was an “exhilarating experience.”

“Competing against players like Kramnik and Carlsson were the moments that I cherish and it had helped me to mature as a better player,” said Tania.

“I would like to keep improving and though I am strong in the middle game, I wish to improve my openings,” said Tania. “The trick is to learn by playing more, observing more and I am doing both.”

Tania is upbeat about the growth of the game in the country. “Chess is becoming hugely popular and when we have a world champion like Viswanathan Anand, it is bound to happen. I am happy that even corporate houses are taking more interest in the game and supporting chess events,” she said.

Is chess her only universe? Tania laughed and said, “Sure I devote more time to chess in my life than anything else, but I am still a normal 22-year-old girl who enjoys other aspects of life and takes pleasure in simple things like reading and chatting and going out with friends.”

* * *

SPANISH CONNECTION

The MoU signed between the hockey club, Atletic Terrasa of Barcelona, Spain, and RDT two years ago is beginning to bear fruit. Spearheaded by Andreu Enrich, who played for Spain in the Champions Trophy in Chennai a few years ago, the programme saw coaching schemes being conducted by the Spanish woman players, Clara Vancells and Anna Serra, apart from other leading lights of the game at the ASV. To ensure sustained growth of the game, the RDT Hockey Academy was established in 2007 with 25 boys, aged between 12 and 14 years, as boarders. Free training, education, lodging and competition exposure were provided to them. Enrich imparted much expertise to coaches from the district, who were roped in for the project.

Dr. P. Johnson has been working voluntarily as Technical Advisor to the academy, while Pitti Lakshminarayana, a former junior India player and NIS coach, has been made a full-time mentor.

To take hockey to the grassroot level, 23 off-site centres were opened across the district, located mostly in zilla parishad (ZP) schools and playing kit, ranging from hockey sticks to goal-keeping pads, was provided to them. The number of players shot up with 300 boys and 200 girls taking up hockey. The academy conducts special residential camps during the Sankranthi, summer and Dasara holidays, often with inputs from Spain. Once a year, it hosts a district rural league for boys and girls from all the centres. In just two years, the scheme has turned out six national and 17 state level players.

The Andhra team that made the K. D. Singh Babu tournament quarterfinals had four boys from the academy. In the Andhra mini championship, Anantapur, comprising boys from the RDT Academy, clinched the under-14 title.

* * *

FOR LOVE OF GOLF

R. RAGU

Peter Thomson’s five British Open titles came at a time when golf hadn’t permeated the public consciousness to a great extent. His final victory at the Open in 1965 turned out to be a vindication of his talent, for that was the time when top-ranked players such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tony Lemo among others took part in the tournament.

What Thomson missed in his playing days — popularity and public affection — he now gets as a golf course designer.

Considered one of Australia’s greatest golfers, Thomson started a golf designing firm in the 1970s. His partners have changed but his business has been progressing steadily. The 79-year-old is the most sought after golf course designer today and his expertise has been recognised by the golf fraternity. Thomson, who was in Chennai recently to redesign the course at the 132-year-old Madras Gymkhana Club (MGC) annexe in Guindy, said his objective is to make the course more exciting and refreshing. “The MGC course is old fashioned,” Thomson said. “It needs an injection of new interests. It’s a classic course. We just need to magnify that image.”

Thomson’s connection with India is not new. In 1962, he participated in the Indian Open in Delhi. In fact, two years later he won the Open defeating Moffit to land the big prize. When asked which was his favourite course from those he had designed, Thomson said “it’s difficult to nominate one. But I would pick out the ones we did in Australia and Japan. I also liked the work we did at the Delhi Golf Club.”

By A. Joseph Antony, K. Keerthivasan & Kalyan Ashok



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