In a spacious first-floor facility at Rangarajapuram, a State-level indoor sports tournament is in progress. Guess what, it is a darts championship! As a competitive sport, darts hit the State late, in 2011, to be precise. But like Cupid’s uncanny arrow finding its targets, the sport has captured many hearts. At present, Chennai has two darts clubs: Flying Barons (25 members) and Club 180 (15 members). The State has an organised body to regulate the sport: Tamil Nadu Darts Association (TANDA).
Despite it late entry – darts is present in India from 1965 with a few States promoting it like nobody’s business – Tamil Nadu has catapulted into the big group. In the 2012 national championship, the State won the men’s singles title and finished runners-up in the mixed doubles and in the overall championship.
The architects of this success are, well, two Chennai-based architects, Mr. S. Saravanaraj and Venupillai, who serve as TANDA’s president and secretary respectively. Partners in business, they have teamed up to create facilities in the city to promote darts as both a lounge and a competitive sport.
In a unique business model, they have established CAFE 180, a continental restaurant, at Rangarajapuram, Kodambakkam (near Five Lights), that derives much of its character from a darts lounge. Visitors try their arms at the dart arena while waiting for their orders. Those found to have a knack for the sport are invited to the upper room – the practice ground for Club 180 – to be taught the techniques of the sport.
In 2010, the two architects were looking at sports as a diversion. Football and archery made the short-list. But they were doumped, because they posed the problem of greater space. Space-friendly darts was given a try. The two architects were not flying blind into this sport. During the 1990s, Venupillai had played darts in Abu Dhabi with distinction. Consequent to their efforts to build darts groups in Tamil Nadu, the two received an invitation from Prasanta Saha of the All India Darts Association (AIDA) to a national championship at Hyderabad in July 2011.
“Except from Tamil Nadu, every State was represented at the championship,” recalls Saravanaraj. “Three good players from Tamil Nadu were playing for other States. This was sad. Clearly, something had to be done.”
In December 2011, an all-India tourney came up at Pune. A player representing Tamil made it to the podium. Abhishek, Saravanaraj’s son, was placed runners-up in the youth event. Things were beginning to look up, and TANDA made a bold move. It decided to host the tenth national championship in April, 2012. Around 100 players were in the fray. Most significantly, sixteen of them were from Tamil Nadu.
Over two days and in two venues, Anna University Alumni Club and Andhra Club, 315 matches were played across six categories. “Thirteen dartboards were installed for the tournament. In the nationals at Hyderabad, only six were installed. Crucial matches were webcasting. A big screen was installed at the Andhra Club, where these matches were conducted,” says Saravanaraj.
The TN team did extremely well in the championship and followed it up notable performances in other tournaments with the result that the State now has two seeded players in men’s section and two others in the women’s – Nitin Kumar, Falgun Thiruvasu, Janani and Vidhyasaran.
The growing strength of this fledgling team is clear from the decision to send twenty players from the State to the South Asian Open Darts Tournament in Jaipur from January 10 to 13, 2013.