He has shouldered the burden of Indian table tennis for more than a decade and Sharath Kamal is now happy that the country has finally found a new hero in Manika Batra.
Manika was the star of India’s successful Commonwealth Games campaign with four medals including double gold in team event and women’s singles. Her performance has forced the public to talk about the sports’ future in India like never before.
“I couldn’t be happier for her (Manika). I told her on the final day that now the responsibility is on you to take the sport forward. I have done my bit in the last 10 years,” Kamal told PTI.
“Beating world No 4 Feng Tianwei (triple Olympic medallist) twice was no mean feat. The Singaporean is still one of the best in the world. The good thing is that Manika always wants to improve and I hope she goes on to do bigger things,” India’s top paddler said.
Having won three medals himself at the Commonwealth Games has given him the confidence to carry on playing.
The 2020 Games will probably will be the fifth and last Olympics for the 35-year-old, who had earlier thought of taking a call on his future after the Tokyo edition.
But a team gold, doubles silver and a singles bronze in Gold Coast has prompted him to reassess his future.
“A lot of international coaches and players I met in Gold Coast told me that I am playing well and can easily go on till the 2022 CWG in Birmingham. I too feel that I am playing well and to be honest I have started thinking about 2022,” Kamal said.
“We have a strong bunch of players now but the support staff still feels that the team needs at this point of time,” said the world number 48.
India finished with a record eight medals in table tennis at Gold Coast including three gold, two silver and three bronze.
Kamal, on his part, feels the performance was “great” but consistent results are needed from here on to build on the CWG success.
“We will have to keep producing results. That is the only way forward. Otherwise, all the hype we have created with our effort in Gold Coast has to die down,” he stressed.
However he is more practical about the bigger battles that lie ahead.
“Performing in Commonwealth Games is good but at the end of the day, we need to aim for medals in Asian Games, World Championships and Olympics. I can’t say about our singles chances but we the men’s team is capable of winning a World Championship medal over the next couple of years,” he said.
Kamal concluded by saying that if their CWG rivals England can win a bronze at the World Team Championships (2016) then “why not India”.