Scripting a new chapter

SHE has been waiting for close to one year now for the big moment to arrive in her brief career dotted with some creditable performances in the domestic circuit.

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

SHE has been waiting for close to one year now for the big moment to arrive in her brief career dotted with some creditable performances in the domestic circuit. And, ever since S. Appoorwa won the International Federation Cup championship in France last March, she has been dreaming of winning the World title. Not surprisingly, she defeated her own State-mate P. Nirmala, who incidentally was unlucky for the third time in the final, to realise that goal in the Colombo edition in the second week of October. The only solace for Nirmala was that in the company of Appoorwa she won the women's doubles title later ensuring a grand double for her junior partner.

S. Appoorwa, winner of the world carrom title. -- Pics. H. SATISH-

The 23-year-old charming player was first introduced to the sport by her father, Sai Kumar, when she was just eight years of age. The progress has certainly not been dramatic. For, she had to be content in winning mostly the sub-junior and the junior titles with regularity.

For someone who has never won the Senior national championship, Appoorwa's magnificent performance to win the world singles title was something special. Normally, any player will maintain adequate distance to ensure proper arm length for better striking prowess. But, Appoorwa has a unique and unorthodox style of sitting close to the table, according to B. K. Haranath, her mentor and president of the Hyderabad Carrom Association. For the record, it was he who predicted that Appoorwa would win the world title for, he believed that she played like a champion despite finishing third in the Federation Cup, preceding the Colombo world meet. Effectively, she may give an impression of being cramped but she actually makes optimum use by aiming the `target' from a closer quarter.

What exactly did this Tamil-speaking girl (her ancestors are from Tamil Nadu though she was born and brought up in Hyderabad) tell her parents before leaving for Colombo? "Nothing special. I didn't make any promises. It was the other way round. They (mother Nitya Kalyani and Sai Kumar) advised me to play my normal game and not get bogged up by anything else by thinking too much," the only daughter in the family recalled. Importantly, Appoorwa, working in the LIC Regional Office (Hyderabad), did exactly that. Once she got past defending champion, Rashmi Kumari of Bihar, in the semi-final, against whom she lost in the Federation Cup earlier, the confidence level was on a new high. "Honestly, I was under no pressure even before the final. My only objective was not to give my opponent any easy chances to come back into the game. For I knew her ability to bounce back in a big event," says the modest champion.

No doubt there were tense moments in the final, particularly in the second game. "I was leading 18-3, but then she got three boards to reduce the margin to 15-18. It was then I realised that it can be so near and so far. So I tried my best to be cool and play my natural game," Appoorwa recalled. To her delight, she struck her wonted touch to wrap up the final 25-13, 25-15 to usher in what could be a new chapter in Indian carrom.

Not very often does one see a world champion report to work in the office on the day of reaching home. But, that is what makes Appoorwa such an affable character in the LIC Office. As Administrative Officer L. Mani points out, she is a favourite for not only being a champion performer but also for her impeccable behaviour. Well, anyone who meets her cannot dispute that.

By her own confession, Appoorwa was floored by the reception she got on arrival at the Secunderabad Railway Station from Chennai. Significantly, she is grateful even in the hour of glory, thanking S. Madanraj, her first coach and now secretary of the HCA, for his continued support to her over the years. Well, the employers are not left behind. "I started winning titles ever since I joined LIC and they were very receptive to my requests to sponsor the foreign trips," she says with all humility. Critics attribute her success to the sea-change in her attitude to life and to the sport. This may not augur well for her opponents!