First table tennis professional player 'Monty' Merchant dead

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Mumbai, Sep 12 (UNI) Virendra 'Monty' Merchant, the first Indian table tennis player to turn professional, died on Monday at the age of 64 in Washington, where he had migrated in the 70s.

According to information received here today, he was suffering from jaundice and hepatitis B. He was cremated yesterday. Monty is survived by his American wife Bobbi, his sister Jyoti besides his 86-year-old mother Manjula.

A prayer meeting for him will be held at Bhatia Bhgirathi hall Dadiseth Agiary Lane at Girgaum in South Mumbai between 1700 hrs and 1800 hrs tomorrow.

India coach Bomi Amalsadvala said ''When Monty played in Japan as a pro in 1972 he was suspended by the TTFI forcing him to leave the country to seek other pastures. Had he stayed on, Monty would have gone on to become the Indian all-time great.'' Shiv Chhatrapati award winner Monty was the finest player not to win the national title. But when he turned pro in 1972, he beat Japanese Shigo Ito to win the World professional title.

Farokh Khodaiji, who beat Monty in both the national fianals, said ''Monty was a nice guy, big-hearted, an interesting personality and graceful player.'' UNI GS SSS RAR RAI2126

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