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Brilliance in basketball

One can call them a basketball family for, father A. N. Dyaneshwaran and sons Senthureshwaran and Sukhavaneshwaran are so passionate about the game. Read on to know about their achievements at the State and national levels.



A. N. Dyaneshwaran, chairman and chief patron of the Tamil Nadu Basketball Association, with sons A. D. Senthureshwaran, (right) chief coach, Tamil Nadu State Basketball Team, and A.D. Sukhavaneshwaran, captain, Tamil Nadu State Basketball Team. Pic. By V. Ganesan.

IF RAMANATHAN Krishnan's is a tennis family that has brought name and fame to the country over the years, A.N. Dyaneshwaran's is a basketball family, which is doing yeoman service to the game at the State and national levels.

Dyaneshwaran and his son A.D. Senthureshwaran have represented the country in the Asian competitions. Another son, A.D. Sukhavaneshwaran, an MBA from the United States, is waiting in the wings to wear the Indian colours.

Sukhu, who is known more as `Jugan' in the basketball circles, had played in the NCAA league in the U.S. when he was studying there a year ago. Now he is back in the city. In fact, he helped Tamil Nadu win the fourth consecutive men's title in the National senior basketball championship, held in Hyderabad in January this year.

In a country where the talent-hunt programme, sports promotion and organisation are in a bad shape at the grass root level, it is these families who help keep up the sports tradition for generations.

Dyanu set a pretty high standard for himself because of his love for the game. Hailing from Arasankudi in Tiruchi district, he rose to the level of playing for the country as an Allstar player. He belongs to the old school that relished just playing the game with passion without expecting anything in return. The family had a sports background, but no one had achieved as much as Dyanu. He could have had a happy academic career, but he was lured by basketball. His game actually started in a Karur school around 1957 and then blossomed in the Annamalai University, where he did his B.Sc and M.Sc (Agriculture) from 1960 to 1966. He was the captain of the Tamil Nadu junior side and played in the senior side till 1968.

In those days, the Basketball Federation was not an organised body and the Services dominated Indian basketball. Getting a place in the national team itself was an achievement and Dyanu the fighter wanted a place in the sun. As an Allstar player, he was in the Indian team for the Teheran tour, but the trip fell through. However, he was the vice-captain of the Indian squad that finished fifth in the Seoul Asian Championship in 1967. He was in the august company of Gurudayal, Sarabhjit, Kushi Ram, Sajjan, Mohinder, Mathew and Munusamy, most of them being all-time greats.

Another added advantage was Dyanu could communicate in English because of his academic back ground. A Philippines coach chose the five best players in the country in 1964 and Dyanu was one of them — the others being Gurudayal, Abbas Moontassir, Narasimha Raja and Kushi Ram.

What was the reason for his phenomenal rise as a player ? "I would say Jumpball Padmanabhan provided a great fillip to the game in the State. By bringing in teams like US Springfield in 1965 he gave us an opportunity to play against international teams. I still remember there was a write-up on me in The Hindu after the match sating that Dyanu was the only player who had the stamina and the fighting spirit to play for full 40 minutes," said Dyaneshwaran, whose basketball career came to an abrupt end in 1967.

Then his journey as a State Government official and basketball administrator began. "Not many know that Walter Dewaram was my contemporary. We aimed for the Indian Police Service. But I could not continue and gave up. Walter, Vazhapadi Ramamurthy and myself knew one another during that period," said the TNBA chairman.

When he was Assistant Collector in Salem he paved the way for an indoor stadium for which the late Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran laid the foundation . It was built between 1981 and 1983. When he became the Member Secretary of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu, he had the slum behind the SDAT building removed, and laid a small athletic track and some courts. It needed guts to do it.

He also filled the vacancies for coaches in 1989-90. Because of this appointment he decided to resign as the president of the Tamil Nadu Basketball Association, a post which he held from 1983 to 89. During this period, he wanted to build a strong men's squad but was not fully successful. However, his ambition to have a separate indoor stadium for basketball was gaining momentum.

"It was with difficulty I built this indoor stadium at Kilpauk. There were hurdles at every stage. The place had to be fenced and protected from encroachers. And the construction cost exceeded the estimate of Rs. 2 crores. But the present Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa helped us at every stage. And we have named this complex after her ," said Dyaneshwaran.

However, there was no letup in his ambition to win the National title. By the end of the 1980s and early 1990s there was a bunch of lively players like Dyanu's son Senthureshwaran, Jayashankar, Saravanan and ball handler Sunny. Indian Bank had the credit of assembling the best side. Though the team could have had greater achievements it kept failing at the last hurdle. However it won the first men's title in 1993 at Bangalore after a gap of 40 years. Again it won the title in 1996 at Kolkata. Then from 2000 onwards, Tamil Nadu has been winning the men's title continuously. It is a success story that Dyanu can take credit for.

Senthu was a delightful player to watch. He started his basketball career at Erode in 1982, but rose quickly to represent the country in the ABC championship in Kobe (Japan) in 1993. As a man obsessed with the American type of game he was always ready to innovate and added more colour to the game in passing and shooting.

As he injured both his knees in 1996 he stopped playing. Now as coach of the Tamil Nadu team, he has brought about a series of victories, prompting the players to be always aggressive as he and his father were.

Tamil Nadu has won its fourth straight men's title, a rare achievement by any State team. His younger brother Jugan is also part of this success. Taller and sturdier, Jugan can barge into any defence for his lay-ups. He played a crucial role in Tamil Nadu's victory in Hyderabad this year.

Some feel Dyanu is adamant, uncompromising and aggressive in approaching problems. But that was the way he played his game. As chairman of the TNBA, he can spread the talent net in rural areas, rope in more foreign coaches to train the players, improve officiating standards and make the State best in basketball in the country.

M. C. RAMAN

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