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Southern Railway women overcome odds to fly high

Despite shortage of players the Southern Railway women’s team from Chennai has fought its way to the final of the 31st Federation Cup National Basketball Championship. They beat Tamil Nadu in the first semi-final 73-67 on Saturday to secure a berth in the final that they will play on Sunday.

Southern Railway women overcome odds to fly high
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Southern Railway (red jersey) in action against TN (white) in the first semi-final

Coimbatore

“Experience and mental strength have been our plus points despite many handicaps. We will win the trophy,” the team’s head coach C. Prasanna Jayasankar told DTNext

It has not been an easy journey for the team, though they managed to win all the four matches they have played so far. SR had only seven players against the 12 players in all the other teams, which could rotate their players conveniently. 

The situation was so bad that the 50-year-old Prasanna herself had to play the last league match against Delhi, on Friday. “I practise regularly, but it was the first time I was playing a game after 21 years,” the former team India captain said with a smile. Prasanna who was playing for the Indian team from 1984 to 1996, captained the team during the Asian Basketball Championship at Singapore in 1992.

“Half my players are more than 30-years-old, are married and have related ailments. They had to play all the matches and did not have much rest like those in the other teams who enjoyed the luxury of rotating players. I had to step in to give some rest for the key players for the semis and the finals,” she said. 

Shortage of players did not affect the team’s spirit. They started the tourney with a winning note against a strong and young Chhattisgarh by beating them 69-51 on Wednesday, followed by the wins against Telangana on Thursday and Delhi on Friday to top Pool ‘A’. 

“Usually we used to have eight to ten players. This time we had 10 till two weeks before the Federation Cup. Sonia Joy was out due to chicken pox. M. Apurva went to the USA on leave and another player Smrithi Radhakrishnan suffered a back and knee injury in an accident and had to be on rest,” Prasanna said. 

This left her team with just seven players. This included P. Anitha (32), the first Indian woman to make it to the Asian Basketball Championship for seven years. But she has undergone a surgery on both her knees. Her teammate Renjini Peter (35), a mother of two, has also undergone surgery on both knees. M. Adhirai (33) was also out with a knee surgery. 

“Once players cross 30, they develop a lot of health issues. They need more time to recover after a match and the girls have had a tight schedule,” she said. 

The key reason for shortage of players was due to Southern Railways’ freeze on recruitment under sports quota for the last four years. Prasanna said Railways are planning to open recruitment under the quota in April.

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