Hameed stamps his class

SHAIKH ABDUL HAMEED was unshakeable. The 32-year-old Delhi based businessman made his intentions clear from day one and stamped his class in the six-day National Bowling Championship, taking the men's crown.

AVINASH NAIR

SHAIKH ABDUL HAMEED was unshakeable. The 32-year-old Delhi based businessman made his intentions clear from day one and stamped his class in the six-day National Bowling Championship, taking the men's crown.

Shaikh Abdul Hameed hooked his strikes to a nicety to bag the men's crown. -- Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

The double gold medallist at the Manchester Commonwealth Games, last year, made every post a winning one tallying a whopping 6026 pinfalls over 30 games for an impressive 200.87 average.

The `portsider' as lefthanders in bowling parlance are called, hooked his strikes to a nicety with great regularity and even exhibited his uncanny knack of clearing the `splits' with consistency. Hameed in his patent style struck `baggers' (four strikes in a row) and `turkeys' (three strikes in a row) time and again and even had six in a row on two occasions.

If Hameed did seal the top position from day one, the runner-up slot was up for grabs as first the `clean shaven' Sanjay Godwani, also from Delhi and then Ganesh Jadav of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra's Jayakumar came up with flashes of brilliance which however did not sustain for long, though all three along with Karnataka's Sethu Madhavan and Maharashtra's youngster Saad Sayed finished in the top six and qualified for the World Championship to be held at Kuala Lumpur. For men the cut off average in making the World Championship team was 180.00.

Ganesh Jadav, the 26-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, an Operations Manager with Alligator Bowling Centre in Secunderabad, finished second-best, with a final tally of 5743 and an average of 191.43. However Ganesh's play lacked the finesse and it was more of brute force that helped the AP lad get most of his strikes. But to give due credit to the youngster he did come up with timely strikes when it mattered most, especially in the `masters round' on the final day which enabled him finish a creditable second. Ganesh by his own admission took to the sport only two years ago and to finish runner-up in only his second national was indeed creditworthy. "I shall however be switching over to the `hook' technique within the next three-four months,'' said Ganesh, with an eye on performing well at the international level. Conventional style hardly makes any impression in the international championship, what with the use of heavier pins.

Karnataka's Sethu Madhavan was not at his best. But the international, who along with Hameed was part of the Commonwealth Games team, did put in his best to finish third in the National ranking with a 5665 pinfall for an average of 188.83. Sethu is among the leading exponents of the `spin' or `helicopter' technique in India, but lacked consistency.

Sabeena Saleem Athica took the women's title with a consistent performance. -- Pic. K.BHAGYA PRAKASH-

Jayakumar (average of 188.23), Saad Sayed (185.50) and Sanjay Godwani (184.77) finished in that order.

The women's field looked open until former champion Sabeena Saleem Athica of Tamil Nadu started knocking down pins at regularity to stay ahead from the second round after having had a miserable start in the first round. Diminutive Elizabeth, also from Tamil Nadu, took the first day's honours with a 1084 pinfall, averaging 180.67 % for the day with two over 200 games. But Elizabeth could not maintain her form and slipped up in the third round to finish fourth in the women's list.

Sabeena, the 34-year-old `designer' who took to the game about three and half years ago, after watching her daughter Sana Saleem, who too participated in this nationals, play the sport got into her groove from the second day and thereafter there was no looking back. Sabeena, national champion in 2001 at Mumbai, with consistent performance also booked her ticket to Kuala Lumpur with 3726 pinfalls in 22 games at an average of 169.36, and emerging as the only woman in the field of 16 to go past the cut-off of 165.00. Sabeena along with Hameed will also represent the country in the AMF World Cup, to be held in Hondurus, an event only for the national champions, wherein about 90 countries participate.

Rakshin Patel, the winner of the last nationals at Star City (also in Bangalore), reverted to the `hook' style only about four months ago and is yet to come to terms with it. This affected her play, which was patchy to a large extent until a last ditch effort on the final day helped her plug the holes and recover splendidly to finish runner-up. Rakshin, a former National cyclist from Mumbai, tallied 3605 for an average of 163.86, missing on the cut-off by a whisker. "I was mentally prepared for this result ...as four months is too short a span to execute the `hook' with greater success rate,'' said the Mumbai lady.

Anuradha Sarda, wife of former national champion Harsha Vardhan Sarda, from Delhi maintained a goal for each day and ensured she achieved it with some steady `bowling'. Anuradha (3553) edged out Elizabeth (3547) from the third spot with only six pinfalls separating the two.

Karnataka's Pooja Hegde and Nikhat Rahim (Maharashtra) finished behind the foursome.

Bowling began in India in the 70s, but it was predominantly a Delhi sport until the late 90s, with Mumbai and then Bangalore taking to the sport in a major way. With the sport being recognised as a medal sport in the Asian Games and Commonwealth the upswing was there for all to see more so in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra — all three boasting of some high-tech alleys and centres with modern infrastructure.

"With international bowling tournaments like — Asian Games, Commonwealh Games, FIQ World Championships (every four years), AMF World Cup (annual), Asian Bowling Championship, Asian Intercity Championship and Asian Schools Championship — held regularly there is lot more for the Indians to look forward to. We have the talent and with more centres opening up the game is going to be big soon, but the Tenpin Federation of India needs to address the problems faced by the bowlers,'' said Hameed, the National champion.

Hameed was vocal enough to point out that the federation hardly bothered to recommend his name for the Arjuna Award, this year despite his double gold and a silver in the Manchester Games, and it was only after the champion did make the effort and forwarded his case to the Sports Minister that the federation make some belated moves.

"With no qualified coaches in India, the over reliance on the Malaysians to conduct camps is a costly affair. Also the balls and the pins are not manufactured in our country and getting these imported time and again is only adding on to the costs,'' said R. Kannan, secretary of the Karnataka State Tenpin Bowling Association (KSTBA), who is an average bowler himself.

But with the good patronage of college students and Corporate houses, the sport has come to stay. In the women's section alone Tamil Nadu fielded seven bowlers in a field of 16.

Fortyeight top bowlers qualified for the nationals — Maharashtra (10), TN (10), Karnataka (10), Delhi (8), AP (4), West Bengal (2), UP (2) and Gujarat (2) making the numbers, though only 45 did participate while the women's was an open event. Amoeba Bowling Centre the title sponsors did a commendable job of conducting the national championship and has made its mark as a leading centre in the country.