Sunday, August 3, 2014

Indian Table Tennis needs a fresh start

Indian table tennis failed to  flatter  at the ongoing Commonwealth games being played in Glasgow in Scotland. Like the earlier edition in New Delhi, 4 years back,  the men’s team lost the semi-finals . England beat India  3-1 and eventually lost to the reigning champion Singapore in the finals by the same margin. Subsequently India lost out the chance of retaining their bronze medal when they succumbed to Nigeria by again the same margin.
Sharath Kamal exults after defeating Drinkhall in the QF
The Indian challenge was led by the veteran paddler Sharath Achanta Kamal, ranked 44th in the world, who lost not only both
 the opening matches against England & Nigeria but also managed to go down once again to Liam Pitchford of England  in the men’s singles bronze medal match. Pitchford , 15 ranks below Sharath, had taken the crucial 1-0 lead  in the team event but what was surprising was Ojo Onalopo of Nigeria, ranked 484th in the world, beat Sharath in the opening match of the bronze medal  event. Sharath at 32 years  is not getting any younger and although he deserved to have been in the team for the London Olympics 2 years ago ,( he lost out on points to Soumyajit Ghosh who led the sole challenge only to lose in the 4th round in London)  his reflexes & speed have gone down . Pitchford at 21 years was a tad bit faster than Sharath , more aggressive &  more energetic too as he methodically decimated Sharath twice at the same venue. 
Peter Engel, India’s coach, who promised atleast five medals in Glasgow2014 could come back with only one. A silver medal in the Men’s doubles   where Achanta partnered Amalraj , a player who’s been criticized for his unbalanced stance by experts. Coach Engel played Amalraj and Harmit Desai in the singles matches of team event & Soumyajit sat out both the matches inspite of his being the second best ranked player in the Indian team. It was to Soumyajit’s credit that he reached the QFs  of men’s singles losing out to the eventual  Champion  & world no 32 , Zhan Jian from Singapore.  Although Soumyajit’s performance in the preceding year has been rather colourless both in the domestic as well as in the international circuit, one had hoped that Peter Engel will have the sense &  courage to play an younger & worthy opponent in the semis against England. Pinning all hopes on an ageing player is like putting all eggs in a ramshackle basket. Peter Engel may be a good motivator but his team selection is totally questionable.
Time the Table Tennis federation of India (TTFI) invest time &  money in getting Asian coaches on a long contract from Singapore & China and also give a befitting farewell to Sharath Achanta Kamal, who had done India proud for many years and will have his name forever  etched in the minds of fans just as of  earlier greats like Chandrasekhar and Kamalesh Mehta. The players of the future are Soumyajit Ghosh & Harmit Desai and it is these players  who should ideally figure in all the matches for the next 4 years.

No comments: