India’s recent streak of good performances at tournaments like the Asian and Commonwealth Games has grabbed eye-balls in table-tennis powerhouses like China and South Korea, according to veteran star A Sharath Kamal.
Indian paddlers had their best outing at the Gold Coast CWG, bagging a record haul of eight medals including a historic gold in the women’s team and singles event.
A few months later, at the Asian Games, the paddlers ended a 60-year-wait for a table tennis medal. The men’s team comprising veteran Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar clinched a bronze at Jakarta.
“The teams are putting us on a very high level in world competition. Olympic silver medallist Kim Taek-Soo from South Korea came after the Asian games and said told us Indian team has become very strong now,” Sharath said on the sidelines of the Ultimate Table Tennis curtain-raiser.
“Chinese coaches also lined up and clapped for us even though we didn’t beat them but because we put up a strong fight. So we know everyone is watching the growth of Indian Table Tennis,” Sharath added.
Hope new coach doesn’t change too much
India’s seniormost paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal is hoping that new national coach Dejan Papic does not try to reinvent the wheel with just one year left for the Tokyo Olympics.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Papic accepted the one-year contract offered by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to coach the Indian team.
Sharath, who is currently the world number 32, said the new coach will have to be content with just tweaking things to enhance the performance of the players.
“We are growing and we have found a system. The new coach will have to make changes within the existing system. Because if he tries to put in place a new system this close to the Olympics things might go haywire,” said Sharath, who will play for the Chennai Lions in the new season of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT).
The long-serving coach Massimo Costantini had quit after the Asian Games last year citing personal reasons. Under him, India had made rapid strides with historic performances at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games, where the country ended a 60-year-wait for a table tennis medal.
“It is very difficult to coach India because it is such a huge country. It will take a while for the coach to understand the system and the players. Our main focus will be the Olympics,” Sharath said.
The 37-year-old also asserted that both the paddlers and Papic will have to meet halfway to make their association successful.
“The coach and paddlers need to come together. We have been working with or without a national coach. I have done it for 15 years, Sathiyan has been doing it, Manav (Thakkar) is also learning because it’s an individual sport,” said Sharath, who will be competing in his fourth Olympics.
“The coach can help us but we need to work on ourselves individually. So I think we need to come to terms with the coach he has to come along with us instead of trying to create a new system. He can do that after the Olympics. He needs to follow the existing system,” Sharath added.
Talking about the Olympics, Sharath said Indian table tennis is progressing in the right direction with a strong team in place.
“We have improved tremendously since the last Olympic games. In 2016, in the men’s team event, we finished 25th and now are world number 11. We also got our first medal in 60 years at the Asian Games.”
“We are in the right direction and are doing quite well, it’s because of the system created by TTFI, UTT, and SAI that we have been able to build a strong team and not individual excelling at singles events,” he added.