A career that ended at 27

G. Sathyan, one of the top juniors in India, winning International titles is a significant milestone in my career as a coach, says Chandrasekar.-K. PICHUMANI

I was the Indian captain during the 1983 World Championship in Tokyo. Under my captaincy India moved up from Category II to I. It was a stupendous achievement. That it happened under my leadership gives me immense satisfaction.

Beating Eric Boggan of USA, who was ranked World No. 9, in the Grand Prix invitation tournament in 1984, which was held for the first time in India, was one of my best wins. There were totally 16 players in the main draw.

Boggan had an unorthodox grip with which he could play the backhand like a forehand. Defeating him gave me a lot of satisfaction.

Another memorable win was over Stefan Dryzel of Poland (World No. 21) in the Swedish Open pre-quarterfinals in 1983. I remember the match went to the decider (fifth game) and I won that game fairly comfortably.

At that time, my ambition was to reach the top 15 or 20 in the world and win the Commonwealth Championship. I was keen to play in the German league and was negotiating with some clubs when I went to the hospital for that fateful knee operation.

I was the Indian captain during the 1983 World Championship in Tokyo. Under my captaincy India moved up from Category II to I. It was a stupendous achievement. That it happened under my leadership gives me immense satisfaction. Actually, India was relegated to Category II in 1975 and couldn’t move up the ladder till 1983. We had a good team including Manjeet Dua, Kamlesh Mehta, Sriram and Manmeet Singh.

Another unforgettable moment was the individual event of the 1982 Commonwealth Championship in Bombay (now Mumbai). I played Zoran Kosanovic of Canada in the semifinals and was leading 20-17 in the fifth and deciding game. He gave me a high ball. I was in a dilemma whether to smash the ball or sidespin or top-spin it.

Finally, I decided to smash the ball but Zoran being a tall fellow and a leftie reached the smash and put it back on the table. I blocked it but Zoran was quick to hit a winner. He went on to win the final game. Though I lost it, that game remains fresh in my memory.

I still feel that if I had beaten Zoran, I would have won the championship. For, on the other side of the draw was Atanda Musa of Nigeria. He had reached the summit clash and I had defeated Musa in the team event. And I have always been comfortable against double flank (shakehand) players such as Musa.

Another memorable moment was the Peninsular Pentangular five-nation tournament in 1981 in Karachi. The participating teams were India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. We won the tournament defeating Pakistan 5-4 in the team final.

All the Indians, expect me, lost in the quarterfinals or before that in the individual championship. I beat Sohail Hayat in the last eight clash and Arif Khan in the semifinals. Arif Khan was difficult to beat and especially his serve was tough to receive. He had a unique service where in he imparted sidespin, chip and upspin to his serve. While everybody struggled, I found his service easy to handle.

Defeating Arif Nakhuda of Pakistan in the final was another high point in my career. Though not a world class player, Arif had beaten Japanese Seiji Ono in the Afro-Asian tournament in Japan. Seiji, at that time, was the reigning World singles champion.

Arif used pimpled rubber in his backhand side. Fortunately, I never had any problem with rubbers. While everybody was concerned with the rubber the opposition used, I was never bothered about all these things. God had given me the talent to read spin.

We had a North Korean coach, Pak-u-Gil, for the 1980 Asian championship in Calcutta (now Kolkata). North Korea had top players like Cho Young Ho, Hong Sul Chol and Hong Chol.

And we lost to Korea 5-4 after leading 4-1. Had we defeated Korea it would have been a dream come true for all of us. Of the three National Championship titles I won from 1980 to 82, beating Kamlesh Mehta in the 1982 Nationals in Palakkad was truly memorable.

As a coach, my best moments were when M. S. Mythili won the senior National Championship twice, J. Swarna won the junior Nationals and S. Raman clinched the senior National title. G. Sathyan, one of the top juniors in India, winning International titles is also a significant milestone in my career as a coach.

Undoubtedly, the botched up surgery by a Chennai city based hospital that destroyed my career when it was at its peak, has to be my worst moment.

A day after the surgery, when I crossed my legs in my room, the doctor who operated on me said, ‘Oh you are able to do that.’

I was shocked. It was then I realised that something had gone wrong awfully. We went for a second opinion to ophthalmologist Dr. Gupta. He told my father, ‘You will be a lucky man if your son can go to the bathroom alone. Don’t expect anything more than that.’

For seven to eight months, I couldn’t see anything. Slowly I got better. Even now I keep hoping that my situation would get better. But all said and done, I missed a golden opportunity to pursue my first love — table tennis. I have done my Bachelors in Law. Who knows, I could have become a good lawyer!

Regarding other bad moments, everybody was expecting to see how I would perform after my decent show in the Scandinavian Open where I reached the quarterfinals. Subsequently, there was the Northern India Regional All-India tournament in Lucknow in 1981. Surprisingly, I lost to Deepak Haldar of Railways in the second round early in the morning.

When people saw me watching the proceedings in the evening in slippers, they were surprised. It was an embarrassing moment for me.

I was upset when I was dropped from the captaincy for the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi. I thought I deserved to be the captain as I was the best player.

I had written articles in a newspaper, which did not go down well with the Table Tennis Federation of India’s policies/views at that point of time.

I strongly feel, that was one of the reasons why I was stripped of the captaincy. I think my Arjuna Award was also delayed because I criticised the TTFI. I was not the blue-eyed boy of the TTFI at that time.

As told to K. Keerthivasan