Past and Present: In true sportsman spirit

Past and Present: In true sportsman spirit
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I recollect a day in December 1983 when the State Bank of India (SBI), Bengaluru Circle, cobbled up a hockey team.

I recollect a day in December 1983 when the State Bank of India (SBI), Bengaluru Circle, cobbled up a hockey team. The trials at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium saw thirty-odd employees vie with one another to get the selectors nod. From the basket of participants, they chose 14. The circle-team boasted of a champion cricket and table tennis side. Gems such as G R Viswanath, Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny and Raghuram Bhat (cricket) and C R Anand and G K Viswanath (ping-pong) studded the team.

The hockey team soon hit the ground running, practising in right earnest to prepare for the inter-circle tournaments held in February 1984 in Kanpur. Thammaiah, an old-warhorse, took over the reins of captaincy and charge of the side, arranging practice sessions and friendlies with reputed teams in the city. The bank had no playground of its own. That left us hopping from ground to ground, five days a week, to practice and hone our skills.

After a month-long workout, we were on the train to Kanpur to lock horns in our maiden tournament - the bank's Inter-Circle hockey competition. Being an 'unknown quantity', it was not fair to expect miracles from the team. Our true colours came out when we got walloped in the matches that followed. I recall our first experience in Kanpur - players ferried to the Green Park stadium on a cycle-rickshaw, devouring golden jalebis and curds for breakfast and a masseur coming to the players' rooms in the evenings to help relieve aches, strains and sprains, albeit for a fee! It is also hard to forget the day when two close colleagues and I strayed into a 'red light area' while out shopping. With the pimp hot on our heels, we fled the spot!

The management soon reinforced the team by infusing fresh blood. Stalwarts such as B Thirunavukarasan, C Andrew Thomas, Vijayan D R, Akram Pasha and Appaiah threw their weight ably behind the team during its formative years. The induction of players of repute such as Uthaiah and BC Poonacha (Internationals), CS Poonacha (Olympian), Ravi Navalgi, Machaiah and KK Santosh (Karnataka seniors) lent much-needed teeth to the side.

From humble beginnings, the team soon rose to become a champion outfit. The glory years were the late 80s and the early 90s when the team graduated from the 'C' Division to the 'A' Division. November 1989 saw the team reach the apex of acclaim and crowned as the State 'A' Division champions. The team with a sprinkling of star players became the toast of the crowds that thronged to the venues.

A memorable episode that happened at the end of the south-zone inter-circle tournament in the late 1980s in Bengaluru is worth recounting. Fancied, Hyderabad and Bangalore emerged as the winners and runners-up. There was no prize for third-placed Chennai. When the teams lined up for the prize distribution ceremony, the lion-hearted General Manager (GM), Mr Shankarnarayan, the chief guest, threw a surprise by generously giving away mementoes to all three teams. The Chennai side was over the moon! GM taught us that there is no better joy than sharing the spoils!

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