“I always play to win,” Pune Panthers’ Durga Dharmadhikari

21-year-old Durga Dharmadhikari of Pune Panthers was one of the surprise finds of the recently concluded 3BL Women’s League Season 2.

After the season-ending injury of foreign player Ari Geli in Round 1, not many gave Panthers a fighting chance to make the knockouts.

But led by the indefatigable and thrill-a-minute Durga, Panthers had one finals and one semifinals appearance in Rounds 2 and 5 respectively.

The 3BL Media team caught up with Durga, who was all praise for the selection process during the tryouts, the opportunity to rub shoulders and learn from experienced Indian team stars and the joy of representing her home franchise of Pune.

  • Tell us about your selection process…what was the experience like?

I was part of the tryouts at Hyderabad and they were one of the best tryouts that I have given. Usually my experience with tryouts has been we just play…players are just made to play a game and then the team is formed. But at Hyderabad, the 3BL coaches there… they looked at individual skills of the player, their fitness and conditioning as well as their team skills. They looked at the conditioning and skills aspects of individual players first and then after a break they divided us into groups of three and made us play games against each other and there were a lot of permutations and combinations. So they saw how well we worked with other players whom we’d never played with before, how quickly we adjusted to each others’ games and how we played as an individual player in a team…which is very important in 3×3 I think.

I would also like to add that during the tryouts, the coaches and selectors there… they told us a lot of things in-between while the tryouts were going on as well…how we could play better and improve, so that we could play better in the tryouts itself, and that was a first for me.

  • You were one of the few players representing your home city. How much of that was a factor in terms of inspiring your performances?

Of course I am extremely happy to be representing my home city but even if I’d been given another team my aim would have been to play just as hard and to give it my all no matter which team I was a part of.

  • Did Ari’s injury in the first round consciously compel you to become more aggressive – in terms of looking for your shot? Or has this always been your natural game?

My natural game has been always scoring and doing whatever it takes for my team to win. I always play to win. Ari’s injury in the first round was extremely unfortunate. She’s an amazing player and I would have loved to have shared the floor with her for the entire [duration of the] League. But I think her injury, her being off the floor has just made all of us play even harder and try even more to win.

  • What were your takeaways from participating in 3BL?

My aim with participating in 3BL was always to learn new things from the players that are here and to improve my game. There are a lot of senior and extremely experienced players like Raspreet [Sidhu] and Stephy [Nixon] over here and it has been a privilege to play in the same League as them. I have definitely learnt a lot from playing against them and even by watching the men’s conferences. I am definitely going to go back home and work on implementing all the things I have learnt here.

  • You are yet to have had the chance to play on the Indian national team. Do you think your performances in 3BL got positively noticed, and what has the feedback been? 

(smiles) Well I hope they are getting positively noticed. I have definitely had good feedback so far. My aim is definitely to play on the Indian national team. But let’s see…hopefully it happens.

  • Do you think 3BL can act as a springboard for you in terms of possible future selection in the Indian national team? (Specifically maybe the Indian 3×3 team?)

I definitely hope that 3BL can create opportunities like that because that would definitely be a dream come true. I came here with the intention of playing my best, giving it my all and showing my game, so I hope it will lead to opportunities like that.

  • Thanks to 3BL and 3×3 becoming a distinct category, do you envision yourself as becoming a 3×3 specialist, similar to some of the specialist 3×3 men’s players?

I enjoy 3×3 a lot. I love the pace and the speed of the game that is played in this format. But I don’t know about becoming a 3×3 specialist. I still love playing full court 5-on-5 basketball but I wouldn’t completely close the door on 3×3. I love both formats of the game.

  • Are you happy with the overall experience in 3BL Season 3? Do you see yourself returning to play for future seasons?

Yes I have loved playing this season of 3BL and I’ve learnt a lot of things and given the opportunity I would definitely return for future seasons.

  • What is the message you’d like to send out to other girls who are yet to have had the opportunity to play in 3BL, or attend tryouts?

I would say keep practicing and working on your game because there is always room for improvement. And to definitely attend the tryouts because the selectors there teach a lot of things during the tryouts as well which has been very helpful to me.