Indians have a long way to go

Chetan Baboor... “It's not enough if you have a good plan on paper. There should be a proper system wherein you can execute your plans well.”-K. ANANTHAN

“There is still a huge gulf between our system and the Chinese system. Yes, our players are playing more abroad. We are doing well. But the gap between China and India still exists,” says the former India player Chetan Baboor. By K. Keerthivasan.

Chetan Baboor was one of the most sought after persons during the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi recently. Whenever he entered the lobby of the Yamuna Sports Complex, he was either mobbed by fans or was approached by the TTFI (Table Tennis Federation of India) officials or by former and current players who wanted to have a chat with him.

It's six years since Baboor left the game to pursue higher education, but the 36-year-old's popularity in table tennis circles seems to be intact.

The four-time National men's singles champion and the Commonwealth Championship gold medallist is definitely enjoying the attention he is getting.

Baboor said that watching the table tennis action at the Commonwealth Games and catching up with old friends was a great experience. “Now when I look back, I get nostalgic. It's been fantastic talking to many of my friends. I met Mathew Syed (former England player who is now a commentator), William Henzell (current Australian player) and Ryan Jenkins (the Wales coach).”

Based in the United States of America, Baboor visits India at least twice a year to see his family in Bangalore and also keep track of the TT activities in the country. He is of the view that the Indian men's team has a lot of talented players and the reason for this is Sharath Kamal, the No. 1 paddler in the country. “The second tier of players is as good as the first. We have players such as A. Amalraj, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty, G. Sathiyan, R. Abishek and others. We can develop a good second string. The National men's team looks promising.”

According to Baboor, though India has improved in so many ways, the country hasn't been able to keep pace with the rest of the world in certain aspects. “There is still a huge gulf between our system and the Chinese system. Yes, our players are playing more abroad. We are doing well. But the gap between China and India still exists,” he said.

Baboor wants the TTFI to encourage more players from all the states and Union Territories to compete in national-level tournaments. “Now if you see the Indian team, there are players mostly from Tamil Nadu and Bengal. Earlier, there used to be excellent players from Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra. We need to look into this,” he said.

After interacting with the players and officials, Baboor has a lot of ideas in his mind. And he wants to contribute to the development of the sport in the country but is not sure how. “I want to be involved with the sport in some way, either in coaching or administration. There are a lot of options,” he said.

Baboor, who quit table tennis to pursue higher education (MBA at the Thunderbird University in Arizona), worked in a pharmaceutical company in New York as a sales and marketing consultant. He quit the job before visiting India for the Commonwealth Games.

He has no regrets about leaving the game. According to Baboor, he left the sport at the right time. “I think that was a right decision. I had many injuries and I would have struggled if I had continued,” he said.

The TTFI has requested Baboor to put forward a proposal as to what his ideas are for the development of Indian table tennis and how he wishes to contribute. But he is yet to make up his mind. “It's not enough if you have a good plan on paper. There should be a proper system wherein you can execute your plans well,” he said.