Sometimes you fall into stereotypes. Sometimes you fall seeking stereotypes. Both almost always unwittingly. But Anaka Alankamony, twice Asian Junior Champion, fell into neither, despite such shadows gazing from every serrated corner of the glass-walled enclosure that she pries in.
It’s easier to tread someone’s footstep than to brush a canvas of your one. She realises this. Hence, for all her adulation and deference of senior compatriots, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, her game isn’t given to imitative immoderation. She is so unlike Joshna and Dipika, in technique and temperament, in manner and matter. She has her own modes of operation. And she asserts this not by verbatim, but by her sheer work-rate.
She is demure yet self-assured. She confesses, unapologetically, that she isn’t flashy. She prefers the slow-kill route than instant termination. “I don’t feel the need to be flashy and go for kills and drops from the start. Rather, I would like to wear my opponent down and induce mistakes. My game is based on hard-work and adherence to the basics,” she confided.
She is only 17, but wise enough to realise that persistence and consistency score regularly over flashes of brilliance, unless one has mastered the art of surprise drop volley. “I use drops sparingly, but I’m working hard to make it sharper. Unless you are inch-perfect with your drops, it could backfire,” she pointed out.
She, though, would have to retrieve a lot of such drops at the World Junior Championship, scheduled next week in Doha. “The Egyptians are so good at it and you have to except that at any moment of the game. But you can’t just keep worrying about it. But they are mostly rhythm players and if you disrupt it early in the match, they get tensed and would commit errors. If everything goes off well, I will meet an Egyptian in the quarterfinals (third-seeded Yathreb Adel). Fortunately, I have gained confidence after defending the Asian title. I’m in a good frame of mind and my game has struck a rhythm. This could be my last World juniors and I hope to make it count,” she said.
With every passing tournament, the responsibility invested on her, and the attendant expectations, would only mount. She would be the senior among the juniors in Doha. “Every tournament is a different experience and it is your pursuit for perfection that eventually reflects on your rankings and victories. I keep it simple and try my best to win,” said Anaka, the youngest WISPA title recipient. She has evolved with her game, but there is something appealingly child-like about her, but her game smacks of an exclusivity that belies her age.