A class act by Tamil Nadu

KALYAN ASHOK

The Tamil Nadu outfit which won the men's title.-

THERE was a time when ball badminton was a popular sport in Southern India. It enjoyed a good patronage when the game produced a clutch of exciting players. But over the past decade, its fortune dramatically dipped and many clubs closed shop. The lack of career avenues have also led many youngsters to take to other games.

The National federation too has done precious little to get the game an international tag, the much needed boost to the image and regular flow of funds. All these factors have contributed to the general decline of the game.

Against this backdrop, the Karnataka State Ball Badminton Association's effort to conduct the Golden Jubilee edition of the senior Nationals in Bangalore was a laudable one. The State Association was in dire straits for some time, before a new set of office-bearers, took charge and made a sincere bid to shore up its fortunes. Conducting senior Nationals, was a good beginning and the championship, a well conducted affair, gave lot of hope for the future.

Tamil Nadu and Kerala reigned supreme as the men's and women's champions. Given its hoary past Tamil Nadu in the absence of Railways, was a clear favourite in the final against Kerala. Despite Nisar's heroics in the centre, which helped Kerala to surge to an early 9-2 lead, Tamil Nadu wrested back the control with a fine display from Senthil Kumar, who played with accuracy from the centre. His smashes had no answer from the Kerala back court and Tamil Nadu wrapped up the first game 29-13.

Continuing its domination in the second, Tamil Nadu reached the match point in no time (28-13), but dithered on the threshold. Kerala saved match point thrice and bridged the gap to 22-28, before Tamil Nadu players held their nerves and grabbed that vital point to emerge victorious.

Earlier in the semi-finals, Tamil Nadu cruised to a 29-20, 29-7 victory over Andhra, while Kerala waged a grim battle to beat the host, Karnataka 29-25, 29-27.

Kerala completed a hat-trick in the women's section and for the third successive time, Karnataka, once a dominant force in the game, was at the receiving end. For a team, that had won over 33 titles in the past, Karnataka, hardly played up to its promise.

Despite conceding an early lead of six points, Karnataka, with good display from Veena and Savita levelled at 15-all and even forged ahead at 20-15. But Kerala's wily Remya and Reshma came up with some neat placements to turn the tide once again in favour of their team, which won at 29-21. There was no stopping Kerala in the second game as it raced to a 12-2 lead and went on to bag the honours at 29-5.

The Kerala women who completed a hat-trick of triumphs.-

Earlier in the semi-finals, Kerala defeated Jharkand 29-4, 29-14 and Karnataka made short work of Andhra 29-15, 29-5.

The following players, received `The Star of India' awards for their outstanding performances in the championship.

Men: A. Venkatesan, Anand Jeyaraj (Tamil Nadu), Anil Kumar (Kerala), H. K. Tejesh (Karnataka) and G. V. Vasu (Andhra).

Women: Remya and Archana (Kerala), Savita, Sumathi (Karnataka) and K. Kumari (Andhra).