Press Report of Raju Chainani 1986

   

The unsquashable lady

Mid-day 21-9-86                                                                  By Raju Chainani

 

BHUVANESHWARI Kumari. former Princess of Alwar. affectionately known to the sporting world as Candy. Undoubtedly. India's first lady of the squash court. Her first national title was won in 1977, her 10th this February. In between, her mantelpiece has been adorned by a constant supply of silverware from all over the country. Seldom has any sport seen such dominance. Her pleasing, outgoing personality makes her a popular ambassador of this game. Currently in Bombay for a coaching assignment with the

SRAM, the 26-year-old champion reflects on days gone by and, perhaps more importantly, on another 10 national titles. "I started playing squash in 1976, a fortnight before the Delhi nationals. Till then I was an ardent tennis player and participated regularly on the circuit.

"I went out on to the new surroundings determined to do my best." It was almost a fairy tale beginning. Sixteen-year-old Candy against the mighty Nandini Kumari in the national ladies final. The rookie lost... but the pundits knew a champion had arrived.

It was in the 1977 final that she avenged her defeat. Bombay was the stage for this historic win. Nandini was no ordinary player and the following year saw a dramatic five game affair between the two ladies.

There has probably never been a better ladies final in the past decade. Candy's victory confirmed her as the number one lady in the subcontinent, a position she has kept well within her grasp ever since.

Elegance

Today her elegance and natural stroke playing ability are taken for granted. Without framing a conscious thought on the subject. she has come to know, in the marrow of her bones, that her past, present and future are wrapped in one earthly object; a racquet. Its exploration, care, finesse and gratification have become principal concerns. "I love Bombay. Since 1979. I've been coming here regularly to play the Maharashtra and western India tournaments. To me, this is the Mecca of India squash. It has a charisma, a kind of romantic attraction," says the champion.

Candy has never lost a match in Bombay. Her only defeat in the last 10 years was at the hands of her archrival Honey Sherman at the 1978 Delhi State final. Whoever said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Between 1979 and 1983 Honey lost all five national finals to (who else?) and did not win a game on any occasion.

On the international front. Candy has figured prominently in the Malaysia and Singapore Open tournaments. She lost in both the finals she reached in Kuala Lumpur in 1979 and 1981.

Determined

"Ladies' squash is not given any encouragement. After years of breaking our heads against a brick wall, we finally got permission to participate in the 1986 Asian ladies championships, I lost in the quarter-finals." There is considerable disappointment with that effort. "Next year it will be different," says a determined Candy.

She is, at present, coaching a group of 20 ladies and juniors under-14 at the Bombay Gymkhana courts. Strangely, Bombay's domination of the men's and juniors' was not extended to the ladies. In fact, the last ladies' champion from the metropolis was over 15 years ago. "We've got to catch them when they are nine or 10. It's a slow, concentrated process, particularly nowadays. There are really no good promising girls around at the moment, which is a crying shame," remarks Candy.

"A camp like this is bound to throw up some talent, I am particularly impressed by two sub-junior boys. Rishad Pandole and Danielle Ezra. They can be your champions of tomorrow, if they keep up their present rate of progress." So Meherwan, Ananth and others, take a look over your shoulder.

Her 1978 final against Nandini was probably her toughest match. Seven years later, the veteran Pearla Monopole, caused a Mutter of heartbeats by losing a close four-game affair in Calcutta. "She is a superb player. Even though she's over 45, her strokes are still very good," says Candy of her worthy opponent.

Dramatic

False pretenders? There have been many. Often they've come out of the match barely in a sweat. Others have collapsed in a slack, dramatic scatter of limbs on the benches in front of the courts. "I cannot understand some of them. They give fancy press interviews and say they'll be the first to beat me. Vet on court, the scoreline has been love, love and love or 9-1, 9-0, 9-0. I think they should dial 100," remarks the national champion.

Candy's grandfather was the Maharaja of Alwar. Her father, Yashwant Singh, is manager of the Seoul-bound Indian tennis team for the Asiad. He was formerly president of the Cycle Polo Federation of India and is a highly respected administrator. Her brother, Yogendra Singh, is ranked among the top eight Indian squash players today. So there does exist enough sporting blood in the princess.

Two further points were clarified by her, "I'm not getting married yet," she says, and "I've definitely not got an offer from a film producer." So the path is clear for a long run at the top. In the meantime, there is talk about Robert Ludlum's new book. The Bhuvaneshwari Supremacy.

 

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