November 1979. The sun is gentle and pleasant. It is the pursuit of leisure, for a change, that engages the attention of the whole town as the School of Artillery prepares to host the 13th Triangular Sports Meet. Behind a facade of usual calm, feverish activity marks the preparations and the minutest details are coordinated. No loose ends to be left, Nothing to be left to chance.
For the uninitiated, the Gunners, the Sappers and the Signallers form the three sides of the (equilateral ) Triangle. Teams comprise officers from each arm and their ladies. Every one plays every one else on a league basis in three sporting events, viz; golf, tennis and squash. The aim of the Meet is to promote good will and to foster co-operation among the three arms.
The First Meet was held In 1960 and the 12th In 1975. After a gap of four years the gauntlet was taken up again in 1979, with the Gunners playing host and Deolali the venue. In the preceding 12 Meets the honours had been evenly shared, except in the Seventh Meet in 1968 when the Sappers won all the events.
The Meet was scheduled from 21 to 24 Nov 79. As the reception date approached, final touches were given to the preparations which, to say the least, were elaborate. A single officers’ residential block in the ‘B’ Mess area was specially prepared for the guests and a Reception Centre was set up to look after their needs. Their motto – “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer”. Some guests took them at their word.
The menus had been thoughtfully prepared and though simple, were a gastronomic delight. Gallons of chilled drinks guzzled with the mouth watering snacks upset all calculations of tie weight-watchers among the guests. To cap it all, the guests were honoured with honorary membership of the Temple Hill Institute, the finest of its kind this side of the Vindhyas. With its idyllic setting, soft, Inviting music, sizzling snacks and sumptuous club supper, It was a favourite with the guests and hosts alike in the evenings.
Special mention must be made of the brochure prepared for the Meet. It was outstanding. The earthy humour had everyone in fits of laughter.
Only practice sessions were scheduled on the first day so that the racquet bashers could flex their muscles and the hole-in-one aspirants could go on a conducted tour of the Temple Hill Golf Course. The practice sessions also enabled the betting buffs to work out the odds.
Impeccably dressed caddies added to the spleen, dour of the spruced up Temple Hill Golf Course. Lt Col MS Bevli, the Gill brothers (Cain HS and Capt MS) and 2/Lt Devendra Singh formed the Gunners’ team. The Signallers’ team was led by Brig SC Suri and the incomplete Sappers’ team, led by Col NIK Murthy, had to rely on local sapper talent for their matches.
The 18 Hole Medal Round (stroke play with full handicap) was played in the afternoon of 23 Nov 79. The par for the 9 bole course being 34, the home team did extremely well with Lt Col MS Bevil and Capt MS Gill returning the outstanding scores of 66 and 67 respectively.
The 18 Hole 4-ball Best Ball Match Play (against bogy on 3/4 handicap) was played the next afternoon. This was an evenly contested match till the 7th hole. On the 8th hole the hopes of the Sappers and the Signallers came to a watery end and the Gunners took an unbeatable lead winning the match and the event. The Signallers were a conformable second and the Sappers brought up the rear.
The tennis matches were played on the new look Temple Hill Institute tennis courts. Spectators in overwhelming numbers sportingly applauded the good shots of all the teams. On the first day the Sappers with their serve-and-volley game left the Signallers gaping.
The next day the home team represented by Capt AK Naskar (singles), Maj NSS Rawther and Capt Jatinder Singh (doubles) and Capt AK Naskar and Mrs BM Baweja (Mixed Doubles) took on the Signallers and carved a methodical victory.
The Sappers superiority in stroke—play and placing was matched by the Gunners’ superiority in grit and determination against heavy odds, on the third day. The first two matches were evenly Shared; Maj Venkatramin of the Suppers convincingly beat Capt AK Naskar of the home team and the Gunners’ doubles pair combined extremely well to beat the Sappers team in just half an hour.
The mixed doubles match now became a cliffhanger, and the hitherto unbiased spectators lustily cheered Capt AK Naskar and Mrs BM Bawejs. Applause is a heady wine but the Gunner pair kept their cool and staged a fighting comeback to win the last set, match and event. The Sappers were a close second is the tennis event.
In the Squash fixtures the Gunners had a formidable team, led by Capt Vikas Kapoor, a national player who won all his matches with consummate skill and ease. Capt PC Kharbanda and Maj Ashish Dube followed the encouraging lead and did exceedingly well, though Capt P C Kharbanda was stretched a long way by Capt A K Nag of the Sappers and had to sruggle, and sweat, to beat him. The Sappers finished second.
The Gunners thus mute a clean sweep of all events, equalling the record established by the Sippers in the 7th Meet in 1968. Much of the Gunners’ success c, be attributed to the encouraging presence of Lt Gen K Surendra Singh, PVSM, AVSM, MC, the Director of Artillery, who was present throughout the tournament and took keen interest in each event. We were sorry not to have amidst us the E-in-C and SO-in-C who could not make it to Deolali.
The meet was rounded off by a glittering Dinner-Dance hosted by Brig JR Malhotra, AVSM, the Commandant, at the Temple Hill Institute. The prizes were given away by Mrs JR Malhotra.
The inevitable tensions and frictions of the tournament were drained away with the lilting music provided by the Artillery Centre String Band. A spirit of bonhomie prevailed and as the guests said their farewells, a hint of sadness at the thought of going away could be detected in their voices.
We are proud of our players and we are proud of their achievement. The next Triangular Meet will be hosted by the CME in Pune in 1981 and we hope our team will do equally well.