Why do players from the districts shift base to the city?
Players from the districts in Tamil Nadu, cutting across sporting disciplines, are generally timid unlike their urban counterparts. The small town boys and girls do take time to adjust to a ‘bullying’ city environment. But once inside a sporting arena, shyness recedes to the background and determination to excel comes to the fore. Former National table tennis player B. Bhuvaneswari best exemplifies the fighting spirit of a small-town paddler. Hailing from Mettur, an industrial town in Salem, Bhuvaneswari climbed up the ladder quickly and reached two consecutive senior National championship finals in 1989 as a 14-year-old and in the subsequent year. “Shifting to Chennai from Mettur wasn’t a big problem,” said Bhuvaneswari. “In my fifth year in the sport, I won the sub-junior Nationals. I knew what I wanted to do. And my parents supported me to the hilt,” she said.
In the early 1990s, paddlers such as Deepa, Shoba (both from Tiruchi) and Jayashree (Salem) made a mark in their own way, but none could sustain it for long. City-based K. Shamini (she did her initial schooling in Kalpakkam) is a force to reckon with in the National women’s scene now. Reasons 32-year-old Bhuvaneswari, “The encouragement, the freedom and the financial support my parents gave me enabled me to do well.” In the same vein, she says, “Unless you shift base to Chennai, you cannot improve because in the districts, you don’t get many good players to play with.”
It’s not that players from small towns do not make waves. In the current scenario, there are seven of them who take part in all the ranking tournaments. However, the decision to make Chennai their final destination is an option many parents are grappling with. Among the present lot, the duo to watch out for is the sister-brother duo of S. Krithicka and Sachin Viswanath. The two are currently ranked No.2 and No.1 in their respective categories —Krithicka (13 years) in the sub-junior girls’ and Sachin (nine years) in the cadet and mini-cadet boys’. To give a thrust to their children’s career, V. Sivaramakrishnan resigned his job in a pharmaceutical company in Salem and set up base in Chennai this year. He now runs his own business. With help and guidance from brothers and friends, Sivaramakrishnan says he’s able to make ends meet. Krithicka and Sachin’s coach Muralidhara Rao analyses their approach to the game. “Krithicka is athletic and fit for her age, but she feels discouraged once she starts losing points. But Sachin’s ability to stay focussed is amazing.”
Their father Sivaramakrishnan refuses to call his move a gamble. “It’s a challenge,” he says. “Krithicka and Sachin will rise quickly and make it big one day,” he believes.K. KEERTHIVASAN