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☆ Wah Ustaad! – Mr Vinay Madhav Gokhale☆

It was on a Sunday morning. I was sipping my morning cuppa when my attention was drawn to the news in ‘Sakal’ about a Pune district level carrom tournament being underway. I had this long cherished wish to watch one. With not much having to do for the day, I decided today was going to be it.

A call was made to Ajay, a late-afternoon time was fixed and there we were, standing in the table tennis rooms at Nehru stadium. There already was a motley crowd inside comprising mostly of spectators like us, tournament organizers wearing the caps, few of them wearing their club ‘T’ shirts and then there were friends and supporters of the individual players or clubs etc. Why so much crowd for a district level Carrom tournament, I wondered. I was to get an apt answer soon.

The air inside was stuffy with practically no air conditioning or circulation in place. However the atmosphere was full of enthusiastic expectations. There were two rooms, each one housing close to eight boards on which matches were played in the singles, doubles and team categories. There was a separate category for seniors too.  The carrom boards were lighted and warmed by the yellow bulbs stooping from the roof.

We were treated to some vintage games of carrom. The explosive reverse breaks and the  rollicking finishes, the straight shots, the reverse shots, the sharp cuts, the side flank shots, the thumb shot, the third pocket shots, the fluke shots, the cannon shot, the deft nudges and touches, the deliberately played negative shots to move opponent’s pieces away from the pocket, we witnessed the entire array of shots. Each difficult piece pocketed was greeted with an impromptu roar of appreciation and a simple piece missed was followed by a sympathetic gasp.  So much involved the audience was with the game!

We soon started realizing the game was played at a much different level than we were aware of.  There were hardly any mistakes committed, was one reason.  The second was the realization that the players were reading the carrom board just like a chess board. An enormous amount of thought went into planning and executing each shot.

How much force to apply, what should be the angle so that the pieces do not get disturbed unfavorably, which return path the striker should take, which pieces the striker should touch etc.  If there were no easy pieces available, how to play a waiting game enticing the opponent into taking more risks and make a mistake etc, every move was driven by a strategy.  Sometimes the players simply chose to pocket the obstructing opposite colored pieces for their own benefit later.

The icing on the cake was provided by Yogesh Pardeshi, a lad from Pune. Yogesh has a very modest personality with no air about him whatsoever. He is remarkably quiet and soft-spoken. For those uninitiated to the world of carrom, Yogesh is a three times ‘World Champion’ in Carrom!

Aditya Chavan, Kiran Dhende, Sulaiman Shaikh, Digambar Chatra were all ‘excellent’ that day but Yogesh Pardeshi still was several notches better, a true ‘World Champion’ class! And he gave enough evidences that evening.

When Yogesh’s match against Digambar started, majority of the crowd flocked around him. Digambar looked in good spirits, fresh from his win against Sulaiman some time back. As the game started, a hush descended around the board only to be broken by the sounds of the striker caressing the pieces or crashing into the pieces and the delightful sound of the piece disappearing into the pocket. Yogesh stayed so much focused on the game that he did not even bother to look neither at his opponent’s face nor at the people around him. Neither the ring tones of people’s mobiles bothered him, nor did the sounds made by the audience disturb him. His eyes, ears, brains, hands were all “living” the game.

There was no unsuccessful start for him with most of his breaks slotting two pieces.  He commanded the pieces to the pockets with the precision of an unerring robot. Shots were ‘discovered’ from seemingly unconceivable positions, his defense was rock solid, and no unforced errors were made. A brilliant move by the opponent was met with an even better response. Each mistake by Digambar was heavily punished. The outcome of the match was never in doubt, a cold execution that left behind a devastated opponent!

After the match we met Yogesh, shook hands with him and congratulated for his win. When we introduced our names he also introduced in a down-to-earth voice, “I am Yogesh Pardeshi”.  He enquired whether the two of us also played carrom. Did we really all these years? Not really. We had our first lesson of the game on that day. The only words I had for him were “Wah Ustaad!

If you want to draw more inspiration, read his page, “History Behind My Success” at URL,  http://yogeshpardeshi.wordpress.com/

So what was the takeaway for me and Ajay? We have resolved to put in some Carrom practice and participate in local tournaments ourselves. Touchwood, we keep our resolution for the New Year 2014!

© Mr Vinay Madhav Gokhale

Mob. – 09890028667

≈  Blog Editor – Shri Hemant Bawankar/Editor (English) – Captain Pravin Raghuvanshi, NM ≈

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Pravin Raghuvanshi

Amazing coverage of a memorable event… like a movie… One could visualize the mastery of Yogesh as well…