Nanaimo’s bad boy of lawn bowling is back.
Hirendra Bhartu returned to the green this summer to capture another mixed pairs provincial championship, and this month he hopes to complete the comeback with a national title.
Bhartu, 54, doesn’t fit the mould, perhaps, of what people might expect on the lawn bowling green.
He might talk a little bit of trash and he’s quick to offer his opinion. But he can sure back it up – Bhartu is one of the best at what he does.
After taking a year and a half away from the sport, Bhartu reunited with teammate Josephine Lee to go undefeated at provincial championships in Richmond in July. Six of the seven games didn’t even need to go to the final end.
“Everybody there was like, ‘Man, you haven’t lost it at all,’” said Bhartu. “Why should I?”
The Beban Park Lawn Bowling Club member first took up the sport down the road at the Nanaimo Lawn Bowling Club, and went on to great success.
He and Lee have made three prior trips to nationals, all of them ending with gold medals. He has another five national gold medals in other singles and pairs divisions, plus 15 wins on the professional tour.
At the end of 2009, Bhartu was ranked fifth in the world and joined Team Canada for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010. There, he was asked to play vice-skip on the triples team, rather than the skip position he believed he had earned.
“So I’m standing there questioning, why am I in the middle? I don’t play here. Change the order.”
Bhartu wasn’t shy about sharing his views with the skip.
“I said, ‘Hey, buddy, look at this. This is not going to work. You have to say something.’ Well, he didn’t. Well, I said something; they didn’t listen to me.”
Bhartu felt that the team had no chance to win a medal, and it didn’t. He returned home and stewed for a while, going so far as to e-mail the national team’s coach, suggesting he resign.
“I don’t hide my emotions…” Bhartu said. “I think I’m entitled to speak out because I can. I’ve been in situations, I’ve played world champions.”
During his semi-retirement, he must have continued to throw bowls subconsciously. Because he found himself surfing the web, looking at pictures of provincial champions. They looked pretty good, he thought, in Team B.C. jackets the exact same shades of blue and yellow that were his school colours growing up in Fiji.
“[At provincials] they said, ‘I thought you were retired,’” said Bhartu. “I said, ‘No, no. I want that jacket.’”
He expects to do well at the Bowls Canada championships Sept. 17-24 in Peterborough, Ont.
There will be other contenders there who will be out to get him – including ones he’s tried to psych out in the past – but it’s all in good fun, Hirendra Bhartu said. He enjoys the camaraderie of the sport and feels he has the respect of his peers.
For now, he’s happy with the B.C. jacket. As for Team Canada colours, he’ll wait and see.
“Will I do it again? The pilot light’s burning; the gas has to be turned on and I don’t know how it will be turned on,” he said. “I’m not past my prime yet. I’ve got lots and lots of bowls left in me.”