Life begins at 47

Umadevi, winner of the World women's billiards title, at the KSBA felicitation function in Bangalore on May 1.-K. MURALI KUMAR

“It all began in 1995. I was going for table tennis to the Karnataka Government Secretariat (KGS) Club and its then secretary Krishna Kumar took me to the billiards room and thrust a cue in my hands. The rest is history,” Umadevi tells Avinash Nair.

For sheer dedication and discipline any up and coming player can look up to Revanna Umadevi Nagaraj, for inspiration. The 47-year old, three times National billiards champion was crowned the world champion at the Cambridge Snooker Centre recently.

“I had to play seven matches — five in the league (round robin, 45 minutes each), the semifinal (also a 45-minute affair) and then the final (one hour) — all in a day. But at the end of it all, the World crown was a “great feeling. It has made me feel proud of myself,” said Umadevi after her return to Bangalore.

Umadevi was a late starter. “It all began in 1995. I was going for table tennis to the Karnataka Government Secretariat (KGS) Club and its then secretary Krishna Kumar took me to the billiards room and thrust a cue in my hands. The rest is history,” Umadevi said.

A third place finish in the following year at the State championships, behind Judy Walia and Farah, was a professional high for Umadevi. “I experienced this same feeling (world title) then and there was no looking back. Arvind Savur saw my game and coached me for quite some years. For the last six to seven years it has been the senior players at the KSBA, who have been guiding and helping me to improve myself, each day,” said the senior typist with the State Horticulture Department.

Is any promotion coming her way? “Well, I take it as it comes. I am not expecting anything much, if anything comes I will accept it, if not I will still continue my daily hours of practice and sincerity to the sport which has given me all this success,” she said. “My National titles at Ahmedabad (2002), Indore (2008) and Chennai (2011) were all buried amongst the achievements of the men. This time around there has been a lot more publicity and hype and this has given me a lot of confidence and motivation to do better, every time I step towards the table,” she added.

“At the last World championships (2011) I finished third. In the latest event, I beat Emma Booney in the league and fellow-Indian and Karnataka player Chitra Magimairaj in the league and semifinal to meet Emma again in the final. She is a good player but then I was very positive and played my natural game without trying out anything fancy. And when there were no shots I played for safety, which helped me come good,” Umadevi said.

About the overall global standard of the game (billiards), she said: “There are very few players playing billiards. It is not lucrative and hence not popular. Snooker, on the other hand, is a rage and there are about 16 to 24 very highly ranked and rated players. Reanne Evans, the seven times snooker World champion is on a different planet altogether. She is incredibly good and her profile reads as well as some of the greats amongst the men. There are some good billiards and snooker players in India too. They will have a good future if they continue with their hard work and discipline,” said the veteran, who has represented the country thrice in the IBSF championship too, in China (2003), Netherlands (2004) and Syria (2011).

“It's very expensive when we go for these tournaments. Fortunately, KSBA and KGS chipped in with financial support, while the State Department for Youth Services and Sports (DYSS) provided us with the air tickets. I owe the rest to my family. Fortunately, even at Cambridge I came across a couple, who drove another player and me to and fro from the hotel to the snooker centre and back. It was a blessing,” Umadevi said.

Umadevi, who won the senior snooker title too two days earlier, said: “It's the result of some hard work and dedication and I will continue to put in the sincere and serious effort, day in a day out.”

A keen ‘keyboard' player, Umadevi said: “I will invest this prize money in a ‘keyboard' and start playing it with all seriousness. It has helped me immensely in my concentration. My victory has also inspired my sister's children to take up sport like roller skating for now and I am happy about that.”