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Updated: February 13, 2013 20:02 IST

Winner all the way

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Lakshmipura Shivegowda Savitha
Lakshmipura Shivegowda Savitha

Lakshmipura Shivegowda Savitha, an athlete made a chance move to basketball in her younger days. Today, she’s a successful veteran on the State team

At 29 she could well be called a veteran in the team. But Lakshmipura Shivegowda Savitha has no airs about her record. She has been a regular in the Karnataka women’s basketball team, serving and putting her best foot forward for the sake of the team.

A product of the Sports Hostel, Mysore, Savitha darts down the flanks with panache and within her range very often gets her long shots in.

Given a little room, she zips with her drives-in to create space for a shot or a pivot to take position for a two pointer. But this versatile player had not had it smooth. “I am ready to wait for my chances... and this I’ve been doing since 2004, when I last represented India at the Senior Asian Basketball Championships (ABC) in Japan,” said the 5’8” lass.

Asked about her developing years in basketball, Savitha says, “I probably heard about this game and saw it for the first time when I was recommended to the Sports School Mysore in the 7th standard. I was adept at volleyball and did well in athletics events in the Government School I attended in my village in Mandya District. I was winning all the events ranging from 100m to 800m and even the high jump. I was a popular sports figure in my school and my coach suggested that I join the Sports School to improve upon my skills and get more exposure. But when I went to the School and became a hostelite. I was told that there were no vacancies for admission in either volleyball or athletics. Watching basketball being played soon fascinated me and I agreed to join basketball. I was 13 then and probably a bit late but being a sportsperson I learnt the rudiments of the game quickly.”

Soon, Savitha was part of the state teams in the junior category and was selected for the state senior team as well. International opportunities too came in soon enough as she was selected for the Junior ABC to Chinese Taipei and at 17 years played the Under 21 International as well. In 2002 came the call from MTNL, New Delhi.

The Telecom Board formed a new team in the capital and many promising players were recruited there. “It was a very crucial and welcome break for many of us,” Savitha says. “Getting a job with a regular salary just for doing what we all loved to do the most — play basketball.”

For five years Savitha played Open and invitation events for her employers and in the nationals in Delhi colours. “It was a great learning experience playing with Sheeba didi and many other top players. We practised and spent every waking hour talking and dreaming about basketball.”

But then in 2007-08 Savitha had a change of heart. She missed her home and family and returned to Karnataka to join South Western Railways (SWR), where she is employed till date.

“I was happy coming back to my state and played for the SWR side in the state championships and other invitational tournaments. But it was back to Karnataka state colours at the nationals as the competition to get into the Railway side was too tough,” she admitted.

“Even today, I put in my few hours of practice in the mornings and evenings with all seriousness... but looking at today’s younger players I’m dismayed. A bit of finger twitching and attempts to stretch are all the work-outs they indulge in before taking the ball and shooting baskets. And in the midst of the sessions I hear them talk loudly and giggle uncontrollably,” she says, with anger and dismay.

She makes an honest assessment of her own team’s performance at the Federation Cup that concluded at the Sree Kanteerava indoor stadium recently.

“We as a team could have done a lot better,” she says. “Some of the matches were within our grasp but we let them slip with some silly mistakes and hasty attempts. I too am guilty of making a couple of wrong attempts and passes. But then some things were beyond us also.”

Karnataka could well do with the committed efforts of such senior players to lift itself from the position it finds itself in.

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