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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Pune woman Bharucha, the force behind India’s rugby team success

Bharucha, 26, is the captain of India’s women’s rugby team - 7s and 15s

pune Updated: Jul 13, 2019 17:34 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Vahbiz Bharucha, captain of India’s women’s rugby team. In June, the women’s rugby team registered its first international victory, beating Singapore 21-19 in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division 1, held in the Philippines
Vahbiz Bharucha, captain of India’s women’s rugby team. In June, the women’s rugby team registered its first international victory, beating Singapore 21-19 in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division 1, held in the Philippines(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)
         

Vahbiz Bharucha stalks the Poona Club gym like an animal on the prowl. Her “regular job”, as a personal trainer, allows her a familiarity with the weights that lends to the belief use of the cliche “fitness freak”, will not be out of place.

All that is a digression however. Much like a line out in rugby; to the untrained eye that is.

Bharucha, 26, is the captain of India’s women’s rugby team - 7s and 15s. As she takes form to deadlift, aggression is writ all over her demeanour.

It is aggression, or as she prefers to call it, “passion”, that is driving the hitherto unexplored sport if rugby in India; especially for women.

In June, the women’s rugby team registered its first international victory, beating Singapore 21-19 in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division 1, held in the Philippines.

Bharucha is only mildly satisfied. Her view, like the over-arching kick of a fly-half, is always moving forward.

She says, “What I think the sport needs at the moment is exposure. If we get exposure to more international tournaments and international players, the more practice we will get competing at that level. It’s also not about physical conditioning, but also mental conditioning. As of now we’re playing only one international tournament every year and that’s not enough.”

Due to the perception of rugby being a “man’s game” in India, the national captain says that forming a 15s women’s team was an “incredible challenge”, but one that has proven to be worth the wait.

Registering a win in the 15s – regarded by purists as the more competitive format of the game over 7s; cue the Test cricket versus T20 format comparision – will open the way for more youngsters to give the sport a shot.

“It’s a huge step forward for the future of Indian rugby as it opens a pathway for future generations to come in and explore the game. Now, Indian rugby is on the map,” says Bharucha.

The Asian Women 7s trophy is what awaits the Indian team in August later this year. It is a tournament the team competes in every year and this time, given the first 15s victory, the expectation will be more than, “show up and compete”.

It’s a big (t)ask; but then, big asks is what Bharucha is all about.

For example, the Singapore game. Bharucha says, “It was equal between Singapore and us. We knew we wanted to win. Even when Singapore led by one point, we knew we had to do all we can to win the game and it was that attitude that took us forward.”

Bharucha, who schooled at the Sardar Dastur High School and then did Class 11-12 at Ferguson College, practices at NCL ground, Pashan, and on her own at Deccan Gymkhana.

The Camp resident who has her physiotherapy degree from Sancheti College and says that rugby in Pune is seeing a gradual increase in interest.

“Due to academic pressure, there’s a disconnect. However, it’s (rugby) on the rise now as media is providing coverage about the current situation of rugby in Pune. Also, social media is helping us get our word out there,” says Bharucha, who picks Orissa as the most promising state for women’s rugby, followed by Delhi, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

Apart from herself, India’s vice-captain, Neha Pardeshi, is also from Pune.

Indian women’s rugby rankings

15s: 47th in the world, 6th in Asia

7s: No world ranking, 10th in Asia

How national team is selected

National tournament on July 19 in Patna

Selectors shortlist 30 players for national camp

12 picked for Rugby 7s tournament in August

Vahbiz Bharucha - from handball to rugby

- Handball for Maharashtra 2006-2008

- Rugby since 2009

- Since 2009, played 15 national and 14 international Rugby tournaments including 16th Asian Games, Guangzhou, China in 2010

- Captain of the Indian Women’s Rugby 7s Team (2013 – 2016 & 2018)

- Captain of the Maharashtra Women’s Rugby 7s Team (2016 onwards)

- Captain of the West Zone Rugby 15s Team (2018)

- Captain of Indian Women’s Rugby 15s Team (2018 - 2019)

First Published: Jul 13, 2019 14:49 IST

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