Anitha Pauldurai: Scripting History For Indian basketball

Published on
February 2, 2018
by
sidbreakball

Originally published in Dec, 2016 on NBA India.

If Indian basketball had a Hall of Fame like the one in Springfield, Indian women’s team captain Anitha Pauldurai would deserve a prominent section in it, with shrines dedicated to her unique legacy. She’s won multiple gold medals at the national, international and Asian level since she made her debut for the senior Indian women’s team in 2001. And she’s still going strong.

Anitha has played in eight Asian Basketball Confederation Championships since 2001, the most by any Indian woman. Showing remarkable consistency, Anitha has averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the five ABC championships since 2007. Injuries have dogged her entire career, as in addition to recent back spasms, she’s been managing ACL tears in both knees for over a decade. “These days the body is not accepting the demands I place upon it, so I rely on experience and power,” said Anitha. After getting married in 2013, she returned to training just three months after giving birth to her son in 2014. She credits her parents and her husband Karthick Prabhakaran for their unwavering support enabling her quick return to action. “After watching Mary Kom’s movie, people are finding it more acceptable for women to come back to their sport after giving birth.”

Anitha finds a way to impact the outcome of every game she plays with her fiery determination. She usually maintains a high true shooting percentage by willing herself to the free throw line come what may. Her accurate jumper ensures that the defense has to respect her range, and her own well-being is the last thought on her mind as she wades into the thick of the opposition for a high-percentage look. She often pays the price for her forays into the paint at the hands of our bigger opponents, “That is my problem, I don’t think about getting hurt on the court,” said Anitha. Short of dismemberment, you can’t stop her from bouncing back up as the team from Korea found to their dismay in the 2011 William Jones Cup.

In many ways, this match was a perfect microcosm of Anitha’s career. She absorbed hard fouls throughout the game and bounced off the floor seemingly as much as the ball itself. In the fourth quarter, with her team’s back to the wall, Anitha’s resilience really shone through. She scored over 10 points in the final quarter, and with India leading 55-50 in the final few minutes, she was hammered on three layup attempts. She converted two and added one from the line to put India up 60-56. At this point, she was fouled hard again and was visibly bleeding from the nose. Like the true warrior she is, Anitha addressed the injury on the bench, marched out on the court and calmly sank two free throws as India won 63-59, conjuring up memories of her idol Kobe Bryant walking back to sink two freebies after tearing his Achilles against the Golden State Warriors on 12 April 2013 . She finished with a game-high 24 points along with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals while shooting 50% from the field. This game was also notable for Prashanti Singh’s downtown flurry as she dropped 16 points in the contest.

Anitha has represented India in eight Asian Basketball Confederation Championships since 2001.

Over the years, Anitha has captained India multiple times, including the third 3×3 Asian Beach Games, 2012, where the team won the gold with a win over China. In the 2013 FIBA Asia 3X3 Basketball Championship in Qatar, Indian women again went undefeated en route to winning the gold with a 13-point average margin of victory, all the more remarkable as these games are played to 21 points or till 10 minutes. They won the gold at the 3×3 South Asian Beach Games as well, with Anitha contributing heavily in all competitions. “I’ve been told by teammates and opponents, that no one has an answer for me in 1-on-1 battles,” said Anitha, exuding confidence which made her who she is.

At the domestic level, she formed one half of one of the most formidable duos in Indian basketball, with her partnership with Geethu Anna Jose in the national and Indian Railways team. That lethal combo helped Indian Railways win the National Champions’ title from 2004 to 2013. “Geethu and I were unstoppable together. I really miss her on and off the court.”

In 2012, Anitha and Geethu got the call to play in a professional league in Thailand, as the duo played for Sripatum University team in Bangkok for a month. Their team finished third in the tournament as they became the only women from India to play abroad in a professional basketball league.

For almost her entire career, Anitha’s played the John Stockton role to Geethu’s Karl Malone avatar. Unlike Stockton, Anitha plays the 2 or 3 position, but still racks up numbers across the board. In the 2009 FIBA Asia Women Championship in Chennai, Geethu finished as the leading scorer in the tournament and Anitha led India in assists.

Employed with the Indian Railways, Anitha reports for duty and juggles her training schedule along with the duties of motherhood as she nears the end of a storied career. “I’m not looking at the end of my playing career as a separation with the game. I plan to be a part of it and give back through coaching the next generation of players for India.”
Her consistent performances over the years will ensure that her legacy will live on through the indelible imprint she has left on the sport. The one honor she’s shooting for is the Arjuna Award, which Geethu won in 2014. That would indeed be a fitting exclamation mark for one of India’s most unique basketball legacies, which began at the start of the millennium and is still going strong.

Anitha has played in eight Asian Basketball Confederation Championships since 2001, the most by any Indian woman. Showing remarkable consistency, Anitha has averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the five ABC championships since 2007. Injuries have dogged her entire career, as in addition to recent back spasms, she’s been managing ACL tears in both knees for over a decade. “These days the body is not accepting the demands I place upon it, so I rely on experience and power,” said Anitha. After getting married in 2013, she returned to training just three months after giving birth to her son in 2014. She credits her parents and her husband Karthick Prabhakaran for their unwavering support enabling her quick return to action. “After watching Mary Kom’s movie, people are finding it more acceptable for women to come back to their sport after giving birth.”

Anitha finds a way to impact the outcome of every game she plays with her fiery determination. She usually maintains a high true shooting percentage by willing herself to the free throw line come what may. Her accurate jumper ensures that the defense has to respect her range, and her own well-being is the last thought on her mind as she wades into the thick of the opposition for a high-percentage look. She often pays the price for her forays into the paint at the hands of our bigger opponents, “That is my problem, I don’t think about getting hurt on the court,” said Anitha. Short of dismemberment, you can’t stop her from bouncing back up as the team from Korea found to their dismay in the 2011 William Jones Cup.

In many ways, this match was a perfect microcosm of Anitha’s career. She absorbed hard fouls throughout the game and bounced off the floor seemingly as much as the ball itself. In the fourth quarter, with her team’s back to the wall, Anitha’s resilience really shone through. She scored over 10 points in the final quarter, and with India leading 55-50 in the final few minutes, she was hammered on three layup attempts. She converted two and added one from the line to put India up 60-56. At this point, she was fouled hard again and was visibly bleeding from the nose. Like the true warrior she is, Anitha addressed the injury on the bench, marched out on the court and calmly sank two free throws as India won 63-59, conjuring up memories of her idol Kobe Bryant walking back to sink two freebies after tearing his Achilles against the Golden State Warriors on 12 April 2013 . She finished with a game-high 24 points along with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals while shooting 50% from the field. This game was also notable for Prashanti Singh’s downtown flurry as she dropped 16 points in the contest.

Anitha has represented India in eight Asian Basketball Confederation Championships since 2001.

Over the years, Anitha has captained India multiple times, including the third 3×3 Asian Beach Games, 2012, where the team won the gold with a win over China. In the 2013 FIBA Asia 3X3 Basketball Championship in Qatar, Indian women again went undefeated en route to winning the gold with a 13-point average margin of victory, all the more remarkable as these games are played to 21 points or till 10 minutes. They won the gold at the 3×3 South Asian Beach Games as well, with Anitha contributing heavily in all competitions. “I’ve been told by teammates and opponents, that no one has an answer for me in 1-on-1 battles,” said Anitha, exuding confidence which made her who she is.

At the domestic level, she formed one half of one of the most formidable duos in Indian basketball, with her partnership with Geethu Anna Jose in the national and Indian Railways team. That lethal combo helped Indian Railways win the National Champions’ title from 2004 to 2013. “I and Geethu were unstoppable together. I really miss her on and off the court.”

In 2012, Anitha and Geethu got the call to play in a professional league in Thailand, as the duo played for Sripatum University team in Bangkok for a month. Their team finished third in the tournament as they became the only women from India to play abroad in a professional basketball league.

For almost her entire career, Anitha’s played the John Stockton role to Geethu’s Karl Malone avatar. Unlike Stockton, Anitha plays the 2 or 3 position, but still racks up numbers across the board. In the 2009 FIBA Asia Women Championship in Chennai, Geethu finished as the leading scorer in the tournament and Anitha led India in assists.

Employed with the Indian Railways, Anitha reports for duty and juggles her training schedule along with the duties of motherhood as she nears the end of a storied career. “I’m not looking at the end of my playing career as a separation with the game. I plan to be a part of it and give back through coaching the next generation of players for India.”
Her consistent performances over the years will ensure that her legacy will live on through the indelible imprint she has left on the sport. The one honor she’s shooting for is the Arjuna Award, which Geethu won in 2014. That would indeed be a fitting exclamation mark for one of India’s most unique basketball legacies, which began at the start of the millennium and is still going strong.

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