Cricket comes to A.I.D.
The weekend of April 4 and 5 saw 18 cricket teams from the Southeast congregate at the Terrell Mill Park in Marietta to battle for the A.I.D. Cricket for India Cup 2009, with the Alpharetta Monsters emerging winners.
The tournament was a fundraising event organized and hosted by the Atlanta chapter of the Association for India’s Development (A.I.D.), a non-profit organization committed to supporting sustainable development projects in India in areas like literacy, primary health and livelihood generation. The teams that participated included not only the crème de la crème of the cricketing fraternity in Atlanta, like the Alpharetta Monsters, Predators, ACC, Purple Bulls, Georgia Tigers and the Seahawks, but also providing strong competition were teams from Greenville, South Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The first day of the tournament saw a round robin contest between the 18 teams, each vying for the privilege of going into the next day of knockout matches, with the confidence of two wins adding a spring to their stride. The early matches set the tone for the rest of the day, with every team and participant not willing to cede an inch to their opponents. As the day wore on, if anything, the rivalries on the field sharpened, spurring feats of bravado from the players who went on six-hitting sprees and did not mind throwing themselves around to save runs for their team.
An overcast sky on the second day did nothing to dampen the spirit that energized the teams the previous day. The Greenville Giants, Seahawks, ACC and the Alpharetta Monsters made the semi-finals. The final came down to a battle of wills between the veteran champions, the Alpharetta Monsters, and the underdogs, the Greenville Giants. Both teams alternately seemed to gain an edge over the other, as the game swung wildly one way to the other. The Monsters, batting first, made up for the early loss of wickets by posting a defendable score of 73 off 10 overs. The Giants put up a valiant effort to score 65 off 10 overs as the calm self-assurance of the Monsters ensured that the total was always a tough ask for the outsiders.
Joshua and Bala from the Greenville Giants won the Best Batsman and Best Bowler awards while Venkat Pokkuluri from the Alpharetta Monsters bagged the awards for the Most Sixes and Best Fielder. Sirish Vallabhu from the Alpharetta Monsters won the Man of the Finals award for taking four wickets in the final, which helped the Monsters keep the Giants at bay at several crucial junctures in the match. The Man of the Tournament award went to Krishna D. from the Seahawks for his consistent performances with both the bat and the ball throughout the tournament.
Naushad Bhamani, captain of the Alpharetta Monsters, complimented A.I.D. for their professionalism and impartiality, and promised to return to the tournament next year. Jasmine Yu, A.I.D. Atlanta’s chapter coordinator, thanked all participants for their support and assured them that the cricket fundraiser would be an annual event showcasing the cricketing talent of Atlanta and the Southeast. Mayank Mishra, A.I.D. Fundraising Coordinator, and A.I.D. volunteer Tarun Chugh organized the fundraiser with help from fellow volunteers.
Chess and Table Tennis for a stellar cause
Khel Mela is one of the major flagship charity events organized annually by Vibha to help raise funds for projects supporting the underprivileged children in India. This year, Khel Mela 2009 was organized at the Riverwood High School gymnasium in Fulton County on March 21. It was a fun-filled day with indoor table tennis and chess tournaments and various other awareness events.
The Khel Mela event this year witnessed an enthusiastic crowd from all age-groups and occupations. As the day unfolded, the Riverwood gymnasium was packed with cheerful abundance: kids, accompanying parents and adult participants, all eager to compete against each other and claim ownership on the titles.
The chess tournament was held in the K-3, K-6, K-9, and open categories. Special thanks go to Steve Schneider who helped coordinate the chess tournaments throughout the day. Steve is the founder and director of the chess school Championship Chess, and author of the Scholastic Chess Series. “This (Khel Mela) is a noble cause and I enjoy doing it,” said Steve who also donated 10% of his books and equipment sales from the event to Vibha.
The tournament used the standard Swiss-system format, which allows everyone, including those who have lost matches, to continue playing to the end. The primary and elementary school divisions played a fast chess game in which players were assigned other partners as soon as their match ended. They did not have to wait for everyone else to finish before they could play their next match, as in most tournaments. This allowed participants to play as many as 7 matches in a span of three hours and generated great energy and excitement among the children.
For the open division, the time control used was Sudden Death / 30 minutes (SD/30), meaning each player had a maximum of 30 minutes play per match, after which a winner or a tie was declared.
After an exciting round of matches, young Gururaj Deshpande emerged the winner in the K-3 category, while Alex Pu and Anuhyu Kasam were the first and second runners-up in that category. Saitej Guttikonda took home the title in the K-6 category as Prashanth Sampathkumar and Tarun Ramesh were declared the first and second runners up.
Previous year’s K-6 winner Rahul Maran clinched the title yet again in the K-9 category this year, as Anvesh Cheemakurthy and Apurva Kasam took home the first and second runners-up trophies. In the open category, Pankaj Bolaki was declared the winner. With competitions getting tougher each year, this was a much-deserved win for the Vibha volunteer.
The Table Tennis tournament was held for singles, doubles, mixed doubles and junior singles (under 15) categories. While few previous champions played in the tournament this year, the event witnessed participation from a few new well-endowed players. As the matches under the various divisions unfolded, the tension kept hearts racing and adrenaline pumping in the players as well as the audience.
The men’s singles event is fiercely competed every year, and this year was no exception. In a scintillating countdown, Michiya Suzuki, despite his leg injury, emerged the winner in the men’s singles against Akshay Hattangadi. Michiya Suzuki continued to play excellently and was the winner along with Sachin Patil in the men’s doubles category as well. The pair defeated the opponent pair Akshay Hattangadi and Ram Gopalakrishnan.
It is encouraging to see increased turnouts for women players in the table tennis tournaments at the Khel Mela every year. This year, in the women’s singles category, Patsy Barret clinched the title by defeating Rinku Singhal in an exciting game. In the under 15 (junior’s) category, last year’s winner Aadil Omar beat Anjun to clinch the junior’s singles title yet again.
The mixed doubles finalists were the well-known father daughter pair, Hanif Omar and Sameera Omar, who played against and defeated Ram Gopalakrishnan and Patsy to claim the trophy. This was a great comeback for the Omars after their last year’s defeat at the hands of Miss Hu and Shak Shaheed.
Previously, at the Khel Mela 2008, a teams tournament was included to add some more excitement to the table tennis matches. Continuing the trend, this year too, each team was assigned 3-4 players, and each round consisted of 1 doubles match and 2 singles matches. After a very entertaining round of several matches, the winners this year were Ram Gopalakrishnan, Akshay Hattangadi and Satish Vasa, while the runners up were Kamat Gurudath, Rao Sanjay, Prashant Shenoy and Arvind Benegal.
The event was facilitated largely due to the generous sponsorship by Sanket Systems. Along with the patrons, volunteers and participating audience, Vibha extends special thanks to the faculty, staff and students of Riverwood High School. Without their support and cheerful camaraderie, the seventh annual Khel Mela 2009 would not have been a fruitful charitable event this year as well.
Since its inception in 1991, Vibha has strived continuously to create brighter futures for underprivileged children around the world. The success of fund-raising events like the Khel Mela can be measured not only by the number of people who register to participate each year but primarily by the growing network of volunteers who pledge to make Vibha and its objectives a success. Set up in 1996, the Atlanta chapter was one of the first few Vibha action centers in the US. Over the past two decades, the Vibha family has grown from a few volunteers in one state to over 825 active volunteers spread across the US and India. Several projects are planned and executed annually through this strong volunteer organization.
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