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Bowling her way to fame

Bowling as a sport has caught on tremendously in recent times and attracted youngsters. At the recent National Bowling Championship held in Mumbai, organised by IMG (a firm of Imagemakers) and Bowling Federation of India, Sabeena Saleem of Chennai vying with 32 others from across the country, quite simply bowled her way to success and became the first woman National bowling champion from Chennai.

For Sabeena who put in a lot of hard work for days before the event, the honour enabled her to bag the prize money of Rs. 15,000 besides flight tickets to Pattaya, Thailand, where she represented India at the 37th Bowling World Cup. At the international event, held from November 4 to 11, 2001, 61 countries participated.

Sabeena, who is in her thirties and is a mother of two, took to bowling about two and a half years ago. An athlete and sports enthusiast since her school days, she used to represent her school in throw ball, cricket and basketball. She bagged a lot of trophies too. Sabeena says, "When I first went to Snow Bowling at Nungambakkam, I fell in love with the game instantly."

A self-taught player, Sabeena improves her game by watching it on the television. She scans the newspapers daily to check if any bowling match is being telecast on the sports channels and even if it is in the middle of the night, she makes it a point to watch it, keeping her eyes and mind open to learn new techniques. "I have the full support of my family as they know I was always into sports right from my childhood," she says.

According to Sabeena, one of the many problems is that there are no coaches for the game in the country and sponsors are few.

A student of Adarsh Vidyalaya, Sabeena quit school to marry Anwar Saleem, a businessman, when she was 17. Today, Daughter Sana and son Ahad, encourage their mother in her sports activities.

"Bowling is a very strenuous sport. One ends up with a lot of aches and pains. Also in India, we don't get proper accessories," says Sabeena. So, she went to Malaysia to buy a kit, gloves and other necessary gear, which helped Sabeena improve her game.

Before setting out for the Bowling World Cup, she was reasonably optimistic as her average compared favourably with the world champion's record and expected to figure in the top 10.

Just back from the Bowling World Cup match at Pattaya, Thailand, where she was ranked 41 (a total of 61 countries participated), Sabeena in true sportsman spirit, says, "It was a great experience. Only the Indian and Nepalese players were straight bowlers, representatives from all other countries being hook bowlers (she has since bought herself a hook ball and switched to hook bowling). Now I know where I stand in the world ranking. If I work hard, I can make it to the top 24," she says with confidence.

SUDHA UMASHANKER

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