Feature

Anurita Saini: The 1982 Asian Games Hockey Gold winner leaves a void

Saini was one of the stars of the Indian women’s hockey team in the 1980s and has served the team as an official.

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

Former India women's hockey team player Anurita Saini passed away earlier this week at the age of 60 after suffering from jaundice.

Saini was one of the stars of the Indian women’s hockey team in the 1980s and has served the team as an official as well.

Anurita came to the fore for her brilliant performance as a midfielder at the 1982 Asian Games, where India women's team beat South Korea, to bring home the gold medal.

The 1982 team with Rajiv Gandhi 

Hockey career

Anurita was born in Faizabad, near Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. She underwent her early hockey training at the KD Singh Stadium in Lucknow.

Her career, in Lucknow, began under the watchful eyes of Ms. Bula Ganguly. She excelled in hockey from a very young age and it was no surprise to her coach that she managed to earn a place for herself in the Indian team for the 1982 Asian Games. The women’s team was making its first Asiad appearance in that event.

“She used to be funny as well as supportive to everyone off the field, but never compromised with her game. Her approach to the game was special. It was something to learn from for the rest of the girls,” Prem Maya, her captain and hostel mate in Lucknow, told The Bridge.

After calling time on her playing career, she joined the Indian women's team as an assistant manager and manager in between 2002 and 2006. She also served as Technical Delegate in various international tournaments.

1982 Asian Games performance

The 9th Asian Games were held in India in 1982. And India’s performance in the Games was exemplary. India finished on the fifth spot by clinching 13 golds, 19 silvers and 25 bronze medals. One of those golds was won by the Indian women’s hockey team who were participating in their first-ever Asian Games.

Indian women's team delivered an exceptional performance at the 1982 Asian Games. The squad consisted of stars like Eliza Nelson, Razia Zaidi, Varsha Soni and Anurita was also considered a key member of the team. They began their campaign with an emphatic 22-0 win over Hong Kong and scored 37 goals in five matches, letting in just one goal. They won all their matches and won the gold.

It still remains the Indian eves’ best-ever performance at the Asian Games.

Anurita featured as a right-half in the team, with her tackling and passing technique coming in for praise.

She was also a part of the Indian team which took part in the 1983 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

Several members of the 1982 Asian Games champion hockey team, including Rajbir Rai, Naaz Shah, and Prem Maya have expressed shock at her untimely death.

“She was a wonderful human being and an adorable teammate,” said Naaz Shah.