By Sunil Sharma
Chandigarh, Mar 1 : Popular in more than 100 countries, baseball is about to make it's 'base' in Chandigarh.
From University to national and now international meets, Chandigarh based baseball player Ekta Khullar's rise has been beyond expectations.
Trained in Japan, 22-year-old Khullar plays for Chandigarh Niners.
She is among the two Indian players who represented the US team in the Oregon Scientific Phoenix Cup, the first-ever International Women's Baseball Tournament recently held in Hong Kong.
"Sports promotion generally gets support from the media. Children adopt sports after seeing them on television. In Indian television no other sports than cricket, football and tennis are seen. The consequence is no one adopts baseball. A majority of people are not even aware of the game. But, people in India have stated showing interest in baseball. New academies are coming up such as the one in Chandigarh which is supported by the Baseball Federation of India. Children have stated enrolling in these academies," said Khullar.
Film actress-turned-politician Hema Malini extended her full support to baseball and accepted the post of chief patron of the Women's Baseball Federation of India.
To attract the young, the Federation has stated the first ever Baseball Academy to train budding players of Chandigarh, and surrounding areas.
"This is very interesting game and very popular in India. And, I don't think that anybody knows much about baseball in India. So, I think this will be very nice, if girls are going to play," said Hema Malini.
To develop a baseball culture in north India, the Federations organised baseball nationals for men and women.
There are plans to hold the World Women Baseball Championship in October this year in which eight countries are expected to participate.
To generate a spirit among regional teams, an Indian Baseball League is projected in February 2009. It's an inimitable endeavor to promote baseball and sports tourism in Chandigarh.
"Since it's an international game, which being played in 112 countries, we want to focus first on international level so that people take notice of India that they are participating in baseball in a big way. To bring to that level, we already tied with universities. We are promoting baseball for men and women in Indian universities. We already have five academies now in different sectors of Chandigarh. We are going to practice everyday and league matches are on between the league teams of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal also," said Deepak Joshi, President, Baseball Federation of India.