It’s not often that Anitha Pauldurai gets a chance to turn out for Tamil Nadu.
Since joining the Railways 10 years ago, the 27-year-old has worn the colours of her home State in only a handful of tournaments. But when she does find the opportunity, like at the 27th Federation Cup basketball championships here, Anitha makes it count.
The Chennai-born India international spoke to The Hindu at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Friday, soon after helping her side demolish Maharashtra. Anitha discussed her professional stint in Thailand, the state of the women’s game in India, and hinted at probable retirement.
How did the title victory over TN in the senior National feel?
I felt a little bad because I love playing for Tamil Nadu. That’s why I’m here now although I wanted to rest after the senior Nationals. But when you’re on court, an opponent is an opponent.
How much has women’s basketball in India progressed since you began?
When I first played for the senior team in 2001, we were seventh or eighth in Asia; now we’ve climbed to sixth. Geethu (Anna Jose) tried out at the WNBA, and even I’ve played overseas. We stayed in dormitories earlier but now we get hotels. So things are steadily improving.
How important is playing in a foreign league?
It’s something every player needs. I got an opportunity after our gold medal at the Asian Beach Games in China. Some Thai scouts noticed me, and I was chosen by the Sripatum University in Bangkok. Otherwise, everyone looks at height alone.
Do we need a professional league in India?
It will be great if it happens. I played for a month in Thailand — only five games — and was paid close to Rs. 90,000. As pros, we need money. Earlier, unless you played for India you wouldn’t get a single rupee. The situation is better now.
Is the women’s game treated differently from the men’s?
The recruitments are fewer. It is only the Railways that hires women players, unlike the multiple recruiters for men. We need that for the women’s game to improve. It can’t be that you get a job only if you’re extraordinary.
What are your future plans?
I’m going to settle down. I’m getting married in March. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll play in the Asian Basketball Championships.
Does that mean you’re retiring?
I don’t know (laughs). I’m 27 now, and everyone at home feels it’s time for me to stop. I feel bad about it, but let’s see.