forging a partnership

National women’s doubles champions... Karnam Spoorthy and Nikhat Banu with the trophy. Second from right is coach M. Venugopal.-

Karnam Spoorthy and Nikhat Banu, who won the National women’s doubles title recently, are showing promise of developing into a top-class team. By J.R. Shridharan.

The contests between archrivals Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in table tennis have always been intense. It wasn’t any different at the National Championships in Raipur recently. For Karnam Spoorthy and Nikhat Banu, representing the AAI, it was payback time, after having lost the doubles final of the youth Nationals to the PSPB duo of Pooja Saharasabudhe and Ankita Das last year. The teenage paddlers hailing from Andhra Pradesh did not disappoint this time as they defeated the PSPB pairs in the semi-finals (K. Shamini and Ankita Das) and final (Pooja and Madhurika Patkar) on way to winning the National women’s doubles title.

The Spoorthy-Banu combine’s victory also meant that a senior National title came to the Andhra Pradesh Table Tennis Association (APTTA) after a gap of four decades. Spoorthy and Banu came together in 2010 when Spoorthy’s partner Akshi shifted base to Mumbai. “Spoorthy and Akshi were playing the doubles right from the cadet days. Spoorthy plays with fast rubbers on both sides while Akshi had a pimpled one on her backhand. Both of them complemented each other well and succeeded in befuddling their rivals. Thankfully, Akshi’s departure did not upset the rhythm of Spoorthy as Nikhat also plays with a pimpled rubber on her backhand,” said Spoorthy’s coach Jayaram, who is based in Vijayawada.

The APTTA’s efforts to promote the game among girls is paying rich dividends, thanks to the committed support of the coaches and parents. Young paddlers started making their mark in the national circuit right from 2005, winning medals consistently in cadet and sub-junior sections.

“2010 is the golden year of APTTA, as the girls won all the gold medals at stake — team, individual and doubles — in both cadet and sub-junior divisions. In fact, Spoorthy went on to become the National sub-junior champion while Naina was crowned the National cadet champion the same year,” said S. M. Sultan, the APTTA General-Secretary.

The AP girls extended their amazing run in 2012 by winning the gold medal in the sub-junior team event and bronze in both cadet and youth team events. Both Spoorthy and Banu added lustre by winning silver medals in the singles and doubles event at the junior and youth Nationals.

Sultan said that the girls deserved a huge pat as they won the title competing in the senior event, which was a grade higher than their own age group. “They should now strive to live up to their reputation,” he added.

For Banu, 19, coached by M. Venugopal at the Gujarati Seva Mandal in Hyderabad, and Spoorthy, 15, a student of Sri Gayathri College in Vijayawada, the month of February poses a bigger challenge, as they will be competing in the youth and junior National tournament in Indore.