Karnataka’s first couple of basketball Nivedita and Reginald Rajan say the sport remains integral to their lives
Husband-wife duo Reginald Rajan and Nivedita are the first couple of basketball in Karnataka. They have been outstanding players who served the State and nation with distinction in a sport that demands a high degree of agility, accuracy and adaptability.
Reginald has the unique record of playing for the State and country for 14 years in a row from 1982 to 1996, and he continued playing right up to 2004 for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., where he now works as the Chief Public Relations Officer. He has represented India both as a player and as captain at the Asian Basketball Confederation Championship, SAF Games and in several international test series against visiting foreign teams. He has been honoured with the Rajyotsava and Ekalavya awards.
Nivedita spent over a decade in the game as a junior and senior State player and skipper. She was part of the Karnataka squad that emerged runners-up in the 1986 nationals in Kolkata. Academically brilliant, she majored in psychology and did pre-doctoral studies in sports psychology; now, she is one of the few sports psychologists in the city besides being a management consultant.
Walking the tightrope
Plenty of young sportspersons abandon their sports careers under academic pressure, but Nivedita, a University rank-holder, managed both. “I used to carry my books on tours, I always prepared in advance and devoted quality time to studies,” she says. The choice to become a sports psychologist was a result of the stark realities of inadequacy and self-doubt that often dog players. “We players often talked about mental blocks or fear of failure during our games, so I thought why not go deep into the subject,” she says.
“You could say we have come a long way from our playing days, but basketball remains an integral part of our life,” says Reginald, who trains youngsters and conducts tournaments for them.
As a player who could easily switch roles as a pivot and forward, Reginald was extremely versatile. With his gazelle-like leap, his percentage of rebounds collected was among the highest. Players with such individual brilliance are hard to find, but Reginald says the current crop too has players with good individual skills. “But what is lacking is the good teamwork that we had in our days,” says Reginald.
The champion hoopster also attributes the shaping of top Indian players in the past to great coaches like Sam Joseph, Prithipal Singh, Suryanarayana and Subramaniam. “We need coaches like them now,” he says.
Running in the family
Nivedita and Reginald married across caste and religious barriers. “We have a lot in common, and our sports background helped us jell together,” says Nivedita. In a lighter vein, she says, “Tell me which couple can get up at 4 a.m. in the morning and go for a workout as we often do?”
The Rajans have two teenage daughters who are also into sports. Karishma, their elder daughter, is a State junior basketball player while Rashmika is a promising tennis player, ranked among the top five in the country in the under-12 category. They have lived in Basava Nagar near Kodihalli for over 20 years. “When we moved in, Kodihalli was like land’s end, and barely any vehicles plied on the road. But it has now become a major commercial hub, with proximity to IT majors. It’s all hustle and bustle, and we miss quietness of the past, but I guess that’s the price of progress,” says Reginald.