ASHFAQUE SAYED TRIUMPHS IN NATIONAL SINGLES
Readers of Darts Player 2004 might well recall an article I wrote about the growth of darts in India during 2002 and 2003 and how two top stars were emerging namely Ashfaque Sayed and Vinod Sawlani.
Well, they have continued to make an impact on the India darts scene in 2004. A recent e-mail from Ashfaque screamed, “Can u believe me? I did it! We did it!” Ashfaque had become this year’s National Singles Champion at the national finals held at The Corinthians Club, Pune on 1st-3rd October. He met last year’s winner, his good friend Vinod, in the semi-finals and thus Vinod’s reign as national champion was at an end. In the final Ashfaque met Arnab Raha from West Bengal and beat him in straight sets, 2-0; Ashfaque’s winning dart being the ‘madhouse’ – double one. Ashfaque told me, “My last year’s plans to win the National Singles have succeeded. I claimed it would be my title. It was great fun and it really feels great to have my country’s top darts title. I thank god and all well-wishers who backed me and blessed me.”
Despite knocking his friend Vinod out in the semis, Ashfaque and Vinod did win the Men’s Doubles. In the Final they beat the West Bengali doubles partnership of Yash Lakhotia and Mohan Goel 2-1.
Ashfaque’s equipment is provided through a recent sponsorship deal by PUMA and Ashfaque reported that the company was very happy with his success. His win also made the newspapers which was vital for the promotion of darts – and Ashfaque in particular – in his country.
Just to keep it in the family, Ashfaque’s wife Ayesha and Mrs. Vijya from Maharashtra won the Women’s Doubles trophy. Ayesha also came near to winning the Ladies Singles but lost 2-0 in the semi-finals to Ms Aneesha Mehta from West Bengal. However, Ayesha could take some solace from the fact that she had been beaten by the eventual champion. Ms Mehta went on to take the Ladies Singles title, beating Amrita Raha, also of West Bengal, 2-0 in the final.
Before the National Finals, ‘zonal’ competitions were held at State level on 29th-30th September where Ashfaque managed to win the Men’s Singles (defeating Vinod in the Final, the Men’s Doubles (with Vinod) and the Mixed Doubles (with Ayesha). Ashfaque said, “These wins gave me a good confidence level and a good platform for the Nationals as they were all in succession.”
Ashfaque stated that my article in Darts Player 2004 ‘sent waves in our small Darts Fraternity and made a big difference to our moral as players individually.’ It seems to me that Ashfaque, Vinod and Ayesha are making waves of their own in India and are looking for their next challenges. As far as national level tournaments are concerned, the challenge will come in January 2005 at the 3rd Nationals to be held at Patna Bihar in January 2005 and then a scheduled ‘darts camp’ at Kolkatta in February 2005. The ‘camp’ is training camp for national level players where a selected few will be briefed about the strategies and rules of the game and, course, the forthcoming World Cup.
Probably the best other news from Ashfaque is that the association to which he belongs, the All India Darts Association (AIDA) has recently become a member of the World Darts Federation. Ashfaque told me, “Mr Olly Croft has welcomed our membership and invited the AIDA team to take part in next years World Cup at Perth, Australia.” Thus selection for what Ashfaque calls ‘The Big One’ – the World Cup’ – is top of his list of things to achieve in 2005. Ashfaque said, “There are a lot of goals for me in the year to follow. I have been practising regularly keeping in view the opportunities ahead.”
The only problem Ashfaque foresees is his lack of competition experience at international level. However, he plans to visit and Malaysia in Dec 2004 as he believes there are some good international players there from whom he can gain vital experience. Ashfaque is philosophical in his approach stating, “It’s only after international exposure that the game in India will develop. Slowly and steadily we are treading the path and, as predicted by many people, the game of darts will emerge strongly in Asia.”
If all serious dart players in India are as enthusiastic and committed as Ashfaque, Vinod and Ayesha, then the rest of the world should take note and keep looking over their shoulders because the AIDA is coming!