|The team in action mode: (from top left clockwise) Rashmi, Jolly, Kriti, Aneesha, Ankit, Mohan and Arnab. Pictures by Pabitra Das
Did you know Bengal has a darts team that hits bullseye regularly? t2 met up with some of them at International Club during the ongoing Royal Challenge presents 6th Royal Challenge Calcutta Darts League, 2012 in association with The Telegraph.
A darts team from Bengal... that’s a revelation!
Arnab Raha: Darts in India officially started in Bengal!
Jolly Chanda: Absolutely! Initially the maximum darts players were from Bengal.
Arnab: And the women are way better than men!
What got you hooked to the game?
Arnab: For most of us, it was a leisure sport to begin with, especially taking out our frustration... but as we got a grasp, we wanted to go professional.
Jolly: You can play this game throughout the year. Everyone can join in and have fun.
Arnab: Also age doesn’t matter much!
What are the points-to-remember for darts?
Jolly: When you see a dartboard, the first instinct is to hit the bullseye, but it’s actually a mental game involving a number of calculations like the hand-eye coordination... it is not at all easy. It is not enough to just understand the game, but you’ve got to be an accurate finisher.
Arnab: The four ‘P’s that we consider important in darts are precision, practice, performance and play.
Jolly: Precision is important, especially in the national and international competitions. They all know how to score well, but it is the finish that can be the deciding throw.
Arnab: The stance is important. The front foot controls your body balance. Also the level from which the dart is thrown — from below the chin or beside the cheek — makes a difference. At the end of the day, it is all about the mind.
Aneesha Mehta: Last year when I met Deta Hedman (darts legend who was ranked overall number one by the World Darts Federation from 1994 to 1997), I asked her if she meditated. She told me about tratak — training your eyes on the flaming candle. It helps to get your focus right.
Jolly: The height is important. One day chappal, the other day pencil heels... that doesn’t exactly work. Even the pins matter. Each dart has a different weight. So, you have to find out which one suits you better. You cannot just pick up a dart and start playing!
Arnab: The dart has four parts and each can be separated from the other. If one part goes kaput, you can get it replaced.
Tell us a little about the present squad and the darts scene nationally...
Arnab: The current squad has more than 25 players, including around four of the top national male players and a minimum of six woman players.
Jolly: This group that you are meeting today can almost be called the cream of Team Bengal. We form the core.
Arnab: Rashmi (Somani) and Kriti (Chugh) had a breakthrough year with the Goa National Ranking (Darts Championship 2012). They have been phenomenal as ladies doubles’ partners.
Aneesha: Jolly and I almost made it to the finals (ladies singles) at Goa.
Jolly: We were gearing up to face each other in the finals! We might be the best of friends, but once we get into play mode, we can be each other’s worst nightmare! The level has gone up a lot nationally. It is no longer a matter of luck...
Arnab: While playing at the nationals, one often trembles. With about 500 people watching you, it’s not easy. We have even had live coverage on the Internet during the last national championships in Chennai. The whole country had logged on! It’s also a great thing that there is a buzz in the media.
Jolly: I would encourage everyone to start playing darts. Many may wonder, what’s the point, but the amount of concentration required automatically improves mental strength. The top rankers have had to work really hard!
What kind of enthusiasm have you seen in the city regarding the sport?
Jolly: Darts is getting more popular in the clubs with every club enrolling at least 10 to 15 players for the leagues.
Arnab: Since I played my first championship at The Bengal Rowing Club in 1998, the game has evolved a lot. Earlier, getting 60 in a round got you a lot of applause and if you managed a 100, you were sure to be anointed Superman! Now, scoring a 100 is easy. The Calcutta Darts League is a good platform for grooming the new players and preparing them for state and national championships.
Aneesha: Darts is no longer a bar game. Look at BRC. It doesn’t even have a bar. Yet, everyday we have fresh requests from players who want to be a part of the team...
Jolly: Earlier, we would request almost anyone to join us. Now, there is a fight to join the club teams!
If you had a face to aim at, whose would it be?
Arnab: My wife, Monalisa! That’s the only way I can get all my frustration out. (Laughs)
Mohan Goel: It’s got to be Ashfaque Sayed of Maharashtra!
Ankit Goenka: I don’t have anyone as such... but in terms of arch-rivals, I guess Amit Gilitwala of Gujarat.
Arnab: Yes! They are more like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal!
Jolly: Vijaya Tecksinghani of Maharashtra. I was in the semi-finals twice and, post-scoring in two rounds, god knows what possesses her... I lost at that crucial point.
Rashmi Somani: For me it is Mohan! Not because I want to hit him, but just because he is a brilliant player and I would love to play as well as he does.
Aneesha: It just doesn’t work for me. If I am really mad at anyone, I wouldn’t need to imagine him/her on the bullseye. I would rather beat him/her up!