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“Carrom will get a boost if it is made part of national games”

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AIMING HIGH: A. Maria Irudayam. —
AIMING HIGH: A. Maria Irudayam. —

G. Prasad

Maria Irudayam plans to train youngsters in the near future

TIRUCHI: With two world titles and nine national crowns under his belt, A. Maria Irudayam is probably one of the greatest carrom players India has ever produced.

Just like any other youngster, Irudayam started off playing carrom with his friends in the neighbourhood and soon became a force to reckon with in his group. He decided to take up the sport seriously drawing inspiration from the carrom star Lazar, who according to Irudayam, was a great motivator. “In fact, I didn’t know that carrom could be played competitively before. I should say it was a turning point,” he recalls. Blessed with abundant talent, Irudayam climbed up the ladder pretty quickly.

After winning the State title in 1981, he became the National Champion the very next year. From then on, he was a dominant force in the sport for more than a decade.

The two world titles (1991 & 1995) came as a reward for Irudayam’s consistency and sustained hard work. “Be it any sport, being the world champion is indeed a great feeling. I am happy that I could win the coveted title twice,” he says with a smile, fondly remembering the key role played by his coach and the executive president of the Tamil Nadu Carrom Association B. Bangaru Babu.

Irudayam is also India’s only carrom player to receive the Arjuna award and he considers the award as the biggest honour. “It has been more than a decade since I received the award and till now no other carrom player has received the honour,” the 52-year-old observes with a tinge of disappointment.

The carrom star firmly believes that the sport would gain more popularity in the country once it is introduced in the National Games. “That will be a big step forward. I hope carrom will be a part of this year’s Jharkhand National Games,” says the Indian Airlines employee.

Irudayam is the secretary of the Periyamedu Carrom Practice Centre in Chennai, where a lot of aspirants play with him and other senior players. “As of now we don’t provide coaching at the centre, but we have plans to train youngsters in the near future. From our centre, a lot of players have shined at the junior level,” he informs.

More than three decades into carrom, Irudayam’s passion for the sport is still insatiable.

He participates in tournaments on a regular basis and says that he wishes to continue playing till he takes up coaching seriously.

“I am discussing a lot with renowned coaches and getting myself equipped to don the role of a coach. I wish to produce a lot of good players and I feel it is in a way giving back something to the sport that has given me everything,” he wraps up.

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