India’s Olympic-bound table tennis players received a much-needed boost as a 19-day national camp is set to begin at Sonepat on Thursday, which will enable them to train together.

Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee will finally get a chance to train together, while G Sathiyan will continue to train in Chennai under his coach S Raman. Other Indian players will also be a part of this camp.

“The camp at DPS (Sonepat) will start on June 17 and end on July 5. The SAI-approved camp is the result of some last-ditch efforts from the TTFI and the players,” Table Tennis Federation of India said in a release.

The Indian players were confined to individual training since qualifying for the Olympics at the Asian Qualification events in March in Doha with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the country.

While Sharath and Sathiyan were in Chennai, Manika was in Pune and Sutirtha was in Kolkata.

“For one, it will change our mood. All of us have been training individually because of the pandemic. Now we can focus on the job at hand. We will also be able to push our limits with different sparring partners,” Sharath said.

Sharath said he and Manika will need to put in long hours of practice ahead of the Tokyo Games.

“We did a three-day session in Chennai, but that was too short for our satisfaction. Then the pandemic prevented us from any further sessions. The fortnight-long camp should help us,” he said.

Sathiyan, on the other hand, said that he preferred training in Chennai because he would get to practice on the Sanei table he was procuring.

“I am expecting it (the table) before the end of this month. At the Games, this brand will be in use. My coach and I have chalked out our programme,” he said.

Somyadeep Roy, most likely to be named as the team coach for Tokyo Olympics, and Arun Basak will have nine other paddlers to train with the three players.

SAI has also approved a sparring partner in Aakash Pal for Sutirtha, besides a personal coach (Sanmay Paranjape) and physio (Dhanjay Dubey) for Manika.

There will be other support staff, making the Sonepat camp a 20-member strong squad.

Lists of campers:

Men: A Sharath Kamal, Manav Thakkar, Sanil Shetty, Ronit Bhanja, Manush Shah and Payas Jain.

Women: Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Reeth Rishya, Diya Chitale, Prapti Sen and Kaushani Nath.

Coaches: Soumyadeep Roy and Arup Basak.

Support staff: Amarjit Singh.

With PTI Inputs