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Saravanan lifts the D. D. Mehta Carrom Trophy for 8th time: Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta

Saravanan Chandrababu wins 8th US National Carrom tournament and DD Mehta trophy
Saravanan Chandrababu wins 8th US National Carrom tournament and DD Mehta trophy

While the boxing match of the century between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao rocked Las Vegas, it was the clash of the Carrom titans between the seven time US Champion Saravanan Chandrababu and Louis Fernandes at the D. D. Mehta Trophy and US Nationals Carrom championship in Richmond, Virgina that attracted attention of a different kind.

With renewed vigor, the new management committee of United States Carrom Association hosted the annual event. Partnering with the Carrom Association were India Association of Virginia and Richmond Carrom Club. Sponsors for the tournament included  Collabera and Visitor Guard.  Homewood Suites by Hilton in Sandston, Virginia hosted the event graciously for carrom enthusiasts who converged to this picturesque eastern state of USA.

For more than a decade, the annual D. D. Mehta Carrom event has continued successfully at multiple venues in the United States. Late Dushyant D. Mehta worked in the banking industry and was passionate about sports. He nurtured various sports activities in Gujarat, India.

Amongst the participants were three previous US Carrom champions along with a sensational player from Canada. Overall, the competition was quite intense with several new players participating for the first time. Notably absent in 2013, the much dreaded Saravanan Chandrababu, a Cleveland restaurateur, announced his re-entry in the Carrom circuit. During Saravanan’s absence in 2013, an old warhorse, Ram Gopal, clinched the Championship making an emphatic statement as the comeback Champion. Ram Gopal is no stranger to USA Carrom having previously won the D. D. Mehta Trophy three times. Another previous Champion Sekhar Challa, always a dangerous player, has disappointed several of his fans with his under-achievement. However, Sekhar’s superb talent is undeniable. The stage was set by these previous champions to give other aspirants a run for their money.

It was a well-attended tournament with players coming from California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, New York, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio. There was a group of players from Canada with one sensational player Louis Fernandes attracting a lot of attention. After seven rounds of initial Swiss Round Robin, top sixteen players entered the knock out stage. This tournament was full of upsets with several stalwarts like Ram Gopal, Atul Kharecha, Neil Khatu and Vishal Karangutkar suffering early elimination. Unfortunately for the composed Vishal, he had to withdraw early due to health issues. Two well known Carrom players – Billy Stevens and Dave Maccrellish – decided to compete after a gap of several years. Billy has been one of the founding fathers of US Carrom Association and continues to make this sport popular in several quarters in the USA.

In the knock out stages of the tournament, Saravanan Chandrababu, a Chennai native, played Louis Fernandes in what was the most anticipated game. Louis displayed a calm demeanor through his game, chipping away with some points against Saravanan winning the first game. Under pressure, Saravanan has this unique ability to elevate his performance and it was 1-1 in a best of three match series. It was Saravanan’s innate aggression and hunger to win that allowed him to defeat Louis Fernandes. Saravanan thrilled the crowd with an amazing white slam clinching twelve points off one board. In the quarter finals, Kamal Umair Muzaffar from Ontario, Canada registered the first white slam off the tournament while playing with Saravanan in the quarterfinals. Despite a tough fight, in the end, Saravanan prevailed.

In the other semi-final, two players – Sridhar Galipelli and Shibu Jose – with contrasting styles, battled it out. Sridhar demonstrated utmost focus in his game with clean pocketing. The stylish Shibu made some delectable cuts and glances but in the end it was the sedate Sridhar who prevailed and made it to the final. Sridhar is gifted with patience and uses it to his advantage particularly against players who prefer to play the game at a fast pace.

The final between Saravanan and Sridhar become a rather blasé affair with the seven time previous champion requiring only two games to oust Sridhar to clinch his 8th title as the Champion of US Carrom association. He also collected the coveted D. D. Mehta trophy and cash prize.

The doubles winner was a strong pair from New Jersey with Sridhar, the single finalist, pairing up with Vishal Karangutkar. Collectively, they displayed immense understanding between themselves with regards to pocketing coins and also playing strategic defense. A cash prize of $ 500 was awarded to the winning pair by Dr. Shivaram Gowdagere.

Injecting an element of enthusiasm is the new president of US Carrom Association – Jayadev Suryadevara. “ I want to take the sport of carrom to the next level in the United States”. His philosophy is fairly simple. He wants to join hands with local and regional Indian organizations to provide wider exposure to Carrom. His new team of management from Dallas includes a strong group of dedicated individuals –Murali Balasubramanyam, Aditya Chavali, Shibu Jose and Hemant Khetade.

Jayadev was gleaming proudly as he described one of the highlights of the entire event. It was the unveiling of the “Green” carrom board that was specially manufactured for US Carrom Association to potentially eliminate some of the fluke shots assisted by excess carrom powder around the pocket. The traditional appearance of the coins also got a facelift with the white coins now truly looking glaringly white. This new board of Carrom generated a lot of excitement among the players.

Volunteers Parag Pandit, Ravi Chandran, Hari Venkatasan( Tournament Director)  Aditya Chavali, Naveen Chandran, Ravi Ravichandran, among others were simply outstanding during the entire event to ensure a smooth tournament. Prasanna Kelkar’s organizing prowess was noteworthy as he tapped into the Indian community of Virginia to make this US Nationals a roaring success. As always, “Professor Subbu” was affable in providing his expertise to the tournament and participants.

Kudos to all the team members.