Image Courtesy Ishwari Pingle

Ishwari Pingle believes in poetic justice. Many years ago, her father, an avid hockey player for the state of Maharashtra, was called for the India selection camp but was cut from the final team. Today, his 18-year-old daughter is one of the stars on the junior Indian women’s team, albeit in a different sport than her father.

“I first tried hockey but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Once I started playing basketball, I knew for sure this is what I want to do.”

Luckily for Pingle, she was never short of options when it came to discussing sports around the house. “I have a twin brother who is into tennis and football and an elder brother who also plays football.”

The 5ft 9 inch forward from Pune began balling at the age of 12 under Coach Mathew Fernandes, and represented her St Joseph High School and Sanjay Sports Club teams. With her typically fluid long strides, she seamless transitioned from the district team to the Maharashtra state team and finally the u-16 Indian national squad. “Knowing I had got selected for my first India u-16 was like a dream come true, not just my dream but my dad’s too as he had got rejected from the Indian hockey team in the same age category.”

The Pune native has played five international tournaments already. “All my experiences abroad, from China, Russia, Cyprus and Thailand made me realise that we need to be physically stronger to compete with other Asian sides.”

Playing for India also brought her in close contact with one of the country’s most inspirational women’s coaches and mentors, Shiba Maggon. “Shiba Di always used to advise me on shooting style and I still follow it.”

Earlier this year, she even cracked into the senior Indian women’s team after Coach Francisco Garcia opted for a young line up during the Lusofonia International Games in Goa. Playing alongside her Maharashtra teammate Shireen Limaye, Pingle and the rest of the India squad secured a creditable third place finish. As Pingle posed for pictures with the bronze medal around her neck, her gleaming father in the stands had an unmistakable glint in his eyes. Life had indeed come a full circle.

Gopalakrishnan R
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