After long wait, they now desire what is deservedly theirs

Table tennis coach Srinivas Rao, Grandmaster-turned-coach R. B. Ramesh and path-breaker TT coach Sandeep Gupta have all worked tirelessly and consistently.

(From left): Sandeep Gupta, Srinivas Rao and RB Ramesh wait for recognition.   -  Special Arrangement

Even as an august committee prepares to nominate this year’s Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees, several aspirants will have prayers on their lips and hopes in their hearts.

Though not all applicants will be equally hopeful, a select few have collected plenty of reasons over the years to feel they deserve the honour. These coaches have identified talent, harnessed the potential to the optimum and given the nation champions to be proud of.

For instance, veteran table tennis coach Srinivas Rao, Grandmaster-turned-coach R. B. Ramesh and path-breaker TT coach Sandeep Gupta have all worked tirelessly and consistently, without campaigning for recognition.

Having coached well over 150 medal winners – from World-title holders to age-group Asian and Commonwealth champions – Grandmaster R. B. Ramesh has proved his worthiness many times over. Ironically, the last time he applied for the Dronacharya Award, he was given a “zero” by the screening committee, much to the shock of country’s best chess coach and many others. This startling fact came to the fore after Ramesh filed at RTI application to know the reason for not being considered.

Ramesh, the coach of the National men’s team that won the historic bronze in the 2014 Chess Olympiad, is the man behind the success of R. Pragnanandhaa, the world’s second youngest Grandmaster on the all-time list. GMs S. P. Sethuraman, Aravindh Chithambaram, M. Karthikeyan, N. Srinath, besides innumerable world age-group winners including R. Vaishali, Rakshitta Ravi, Divya Deshmukh etc, owe their success to Ramesh.

Sandeep’s most famous student, among 30 internationals, remains Manika Batra. By returning with four medals, two golds from year’s Commonwealth Games and another historic bronze with Sharath Kamal in the recent Asian Games in Jakarta, Manika has a very strong case for Arjuna Award. Manika was the second Olympian produced by Sandeep, the

first being Neha Agarwal. Arjuna Awardee Anthony Amalraj, member medal-winning men’s team in this year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games, Arjuna Awardee and a former National champion also trains with Sandeep, now in his 25th year as a coach.

Since 1983, the contribution of Srinivas Rao to Indian table tennis is second to none. Father of nine-time Commomwealth Games medallist Sharath Kamal and the man behind the success of several internationals like Chetan Baboor, S. Raman, K. Shamini, N. R. Indu among others, Srinivas has relentlessly produced champions like no other.

These low-profile coaches, who have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of champions, at various levels, now await their due. This time, they are more optimistic than ever. Having waited patiently, they now desire what is deservedly theirs.