Indian Express article on Bhuvaneshwari Kumari

As the Princess of Alwar she could have led a cushy life. Instead she chose to go through the grind and spent long hours working on her fitness. She always travelled with the rest of the team even if that meant travelling on an unreserved ticket for tournaments! “Paying my air fare was no big deal for my parents. But, they never spoilt us. They were always very encouraging about my sister and I taking up something like squash and not say, polo or shooting — the symbols of royalty,” says 16 consecutive time national squash champion Bhuvaneshwari Kumari.
In the city for the junior national and inter-state meet in progress at the Calcutta Racquet Club, the former ace narrated an interesting tale of how she took to the racquet sport. “I was playing the tennis circuit, when in 1976, St Stephens College was hosting the national squash championships. They were short on one entry and I agreed to fill in. To my surprise I finished runners-up. Had I lost in the first round, I would have never taken up squash, but making the finals in my first attempt got me hooked to the game. I quit tennis thereafter and squash became my passion,” recalls the legendary player dressed casually in tracks and striped shirt.

That was just the beginning of a magnificent career that saw her dominate the national scenario for 16 years from 1977-1992 and attain a career high ranking of third in the Asian circuit. She even took on the men and embarrassed a few in the battle of sexes encounters. “After a point of time I wasn’t allowed to compete with the men. They said I was giving men a complex,” she says with a laugh. A knee injury forced her to quit the game after winning the 1992 Nationals.

However, the Arjuna and Padmashri Awardee rued the absence of proper training and guidance during her hey days. “There were no coaches in our time. There was no proper training then. We just followed what people advised us, there was no standard training method in those days. There were no courts where the public could play. Only club members had access to the courts. Youngsters these days are far better off. They have all the coaching and training facilities. But kids should have the hunger to succeed,” says Bhuvaneshwari who herself runs an academy in the girls’ Mayo College, Ajmer.
The legendary player also feels that corporate sponsorship is the greatest need of the hour. “More youngsters will take to squash if they get a decent prize money. At this moment, one can’t make a living out of the sport. So many youngsters quit the game after a few years. If we can get in sponsors for the sport, it will become a popular sport in a few years’ time. I also think the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 will also help popularise the sport in the country,” she says.
Talking about the current crop of players, the veteran says there is a wide gap between country’s top player Joshna Chinappa and others. The young brigade led by India No 2 Dipika Pallikal looks promising but the next couple of years are very crucial for them, feels Bhuvaneshwari.

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About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai in 2001 to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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