The Telangana women’s basketball team, comprising of mostly Hyderabad-based players, recently clinched the second place at the National Basketball Championship in Puducherry. The team is being coached by Mohan Rao and Anandhi Duraiswamy for the last five years.
Anandhi says, “I started coaching from 1996. I’ve been recruiting players in the team and I’m proud of my girls today. If we had more substitutes on the bench, we would have easily won gold. However, it was amazing to win against the Indian Railways basketball team, who have been the champions for long. Women are always looked down upon and that has to change. Only when they are respected will others be encouraged to take up the sport.”
Though the team faced many problems due to last minute changes by the Basketball Federation of India, they are all praise for Norman Isaac from the executive committee. Team captain, 34-year-old Purnima Mandava is a celebrity fitness trainer and nutritionist, who has been playing basketball, volleyball and hockey since her childhood. She says, “I love basketball for its style. I also want to play with my eight-year-old daughter one day.”
As to why it took so long for the state team to make it to the top, she says, “We were a big part of the undivided Andhra Pradesh. After the partition, we had to start from scratch, which was a challenge. We came fourth last year and didn’t want to settle for anything lesser this time. Players from Chhattisgarh were almost 7 feet tall, but we were tigresses on court and proved those who didn’t think we could do it, wrong. Our coach, Anandhi, had different strategies for each game, which helped a lot.
About what went wrong in the final match, Purnima says, “There are very few basketball players from the state. We didn’t have anyone on the bench. If we have more players from the school level and are provided with basic facilities, I think we could have won. We are training even harder now, since everyone’s hopes on the team have increased. Coach Mohan Rao has been a father figure for the team.”
They are now preparing to win gold in the championship next year. The players, most of whom work with the South Central Railway, are also training for the Federation Cup that is set to begin in March this year. 23-year-old Ramya, who studied B.E electronics and communication in Chennai, says, “I’m glad to have won a medal for Telangana. That’s what matters to me.”...