From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.31 :: Aug. 01, 2009
Aditya Mehta receives the winner's shield from tennis legend Ramesh Krishnan.
Something of the Raj remained at the Madras Gymkhana Club all-India invitation snooker tournament. The referees watched errant snooker balls with the chastening look old school masters reserve for begrimed children returning from the playing fields. The end of the frame, and the long suffering arbiters set the table right and established order with the air and authority of Jeeves. When, in a cluttered passage of the game, a player finds himself in a Zugzwang, one almost ex pected from him a weary “Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”
The game itself was played with dash and ability, and the field was competitive. Opponents cheered breaks, with a nod or a knock on the wood; the underdog had the sympathy of the audience and the snazzy digital scoreboards, like the English weather, turned petulant once in a while.
A dress code was in place (‘cool and classy’ observed a player), and the only time someone’s choice of apparel stopped play was when Yasin Merchant was all set to pot a black and a ‘pink’ got in his way — it was the tight pants of someone in the crowd fluttering to her seat. But all was well and the game went on.
In between all this, snooker was played. Sometimes the balls purred on the green baize and sometimes they smudged their way across the velvet.
Aditya Mehta, with his low easy grip on the cue stick, coaxed the orbs to perform his bidding, never employing a harsh stab when a measured nudge was all that was needed. Yasin blew hot and cold. When on a roll, he was an absolute bully, cornering the game to himself. When he miscued, he just stood at the table a second longer, looking at the pattern so intricately thought out, one that was now erased by a small flaw in the action, by force that was not optimal, by hands that were not as fast as they used to be.
In the final, Aditya’s consistency prevailed over Yasin’s flair and the latter, wholesome in his praise of the winner, acknowledged that “the better player won.”
Before all that, there were vagaries, swathes of luck, elaborate passages of play, upsets and let-downs. M. S. Arun hit a 137-point break during the league stage but couldn’t qualify for the knock-out rounds.
Faisal Khan won all his league matches but stumbled at the first hurdle to lose his quarterfinal match. The top-seed Manan Chandra had the ill-luck of running into a Yasin in blazing form in the semifinals. The story of the tournament though, and for the 42-year-old Yasin the way ahead perhaps, lay somewhere in the pause that came at the end of his unfinished sentence.
Final (best-of-eleven frames): Aditya Mehta bt Yasin Merchant 6-2 (62-69, 59-1, 69-40, 111-0, 58-14, 12-80, 70-52, 72-23). Semifinals (best-of-nine frames): Yasin Merchant bt Manan Chandra 5-1 (54-43, 100-9, 66-2, 84-43, 55-76, 66-16); Aditya Mehta bt Sourav Kothari 5-2 (64-53, 48-62, 69-31, 68-16, 23-93, 67-0, 65-51).
His heart still beats for swimming
As a cherubic kid V. Kutraleeshwaran created numerous swimming records. He quit long-distance swimming when he was at his peak due to lack of sponsorships.
The decision to quit swimming and concentrate on academics, according to Kutraleeshwaran, was a well-thought one given the circumstances. “I am happy that I took the right decision,” said the former long-distance swimmer who, at the age of 13 entered the Guinness Book of World Records by swimming across six straits in a calendar year (1994). He beat Mihir’s Sen record of five straits in one year.
It’s been 15 years since Kutraleeshwaran broke Sen’s record. Why hasn’t anybody made an attempt to surpass Kutraleeshwaran? Is long-distance swimming in India dead? Are there are any budding long-distance swimmers in the country? These are some of the questions that keep nagging the former ace swimmer. “It (my record) remains unbroken even after 15 years,” said Kutraleeshwaran, who quit his job at the Intel Corporation in the USA to pursue MBA in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. “Records should be broken. That’s how a sport grows. Actually that’s the way a sport gets promoted.”
Kutraleeshwaran, who has been in the city since August last year, recalled his association with the sport as a teenager. He reminisced the tough regimen and tight schedules he had to go through in order to succeed in swimming. He had to travel from his residence at Gopalapuram to the swimming pool in Shenoy Nagar — around 10kms — every day in the morning. “I used to get up early in the morning and go with my father on a scooter sleeping. It was loads of hard work, but it was fun too,” Kutraleeshwarn said.
Keen to pursue a course in management, Kutraleeshwaran, who had joined the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore, got to know that he was in the waiting list of MIT. “They (MIT) told me that I could join them in 2009,” he said.
So Kutraleeshwaran dropped out of IIM (Bangalore) to spend quality time with his parents. “They (parents) wanted me to stay with them as I was abroad either studying or working,” said.
Kutraleeshwaran’s heart still beats for swimming. His long-term ambition is to open a sports mall. “It’ll be a one-stop shop where all things related to swimming can be bought,” he said.
The BWF Yonex-Sunrise World badminton championship, to be held in Hyderabad, could turn out to be a very costly affair. The operational cost for the air-conditioning system will be around Rs. 1,20,000 per day, the power consumption charges would amount to Rs. 75,000 per day and the daily rent for the venue comes to Rs. 25,000. Then there is the Rs. 2 crore sanction fee which the Badminton Association of India has to shell out to the World Badminton Federation.
This is to mention only some of the major expenses and there are a host of minor ones which add up to a big sum. According to conservative estimates, the total expense of staging the World Championship may exceed Rs. 3 crore.
The event does not qualify for any grants from the Government of India. At the state level, the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh is stretching itself beyond its budgetary constraints to spend about Rs. 40 lakh for various renovation works including increasing lighting capacity, plugging the leaks in the roof at the main venue, carpeting the approach ways and laying warm-up courts.
But, eventually, if the event goes off smoothly without any major hitches, the organisers may have a good reason to pat themselves on the back for having overcome several big hurdles.
By Raakesh Natraj, K. Keerthivasan & Abhijit Sen Gupta
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