Chandrasekar: ‘Money should flow into all levels of the sport’

Hailing the league as a great move, V. Chandrasekar, former International paddler, said it is bound to herald a new wave in table tennis.

V. Chandrasekar is hoping for the new league to succeed.   -  V. Ganesan

That Chennai has been picked as one of the three venues for the ambitious professional table tennis league (Ultimate Ping Pong) by 11even Sports Private Limited is a matter of great joy for the sport’s enthusiasts.

The city is easily the busiest when it comes to hosting most of the State-ranking tournaments and with more than 20 registered clubs, Chennai is really a hub of TT activity. That three of the top players of the country, Sharath Kamal, A. Amalraj and G. Sathiyan hail from the city, validates the reason why the city was chosen in the first place.

Can the league infuse a new life into a sport which has seen India show signs of improvement especially in the last couple of years? Last month, the Indian men’s team reached the quarterfinals of the Asian championship in Wuxi (China) losing narrowly to a higher-ranked Japan.

And early last year, India (men & women) reached the Championship Division of the World team championship in Kuala Lumpur for the first time.

Hailing the league as a great move, V. Chandrasekar, former International paddler, said it is bound to herald a new wave in table tennis. “Definitely, it is a laudable idea. Money should flow into all levels of the sport, an idea which I have been advocating since my playing days. I hope and pray the league succeeds,” said the 59-year-old, a three-time National singles champion.

According to R. Abishek, a Commonwealth Games medallist, it is a good step forward, and the league will have more viewers depending on the publicity the organisers can generate.

“When 11even Sports conducted the ITTF World Tour in Delhi recently, it did a good job. Hopefully UPP will be promoted aggressively,” said the 29-year-old, who is also the reigning State champion.

Abishek further said the league could act as a model for regional leagues across India. “Already, Mumbai, which is the economic capital, has a successful league going. And there is a small league in Thiruvananthapuram and Guntur,” he added.

For M.S. Mythili, two-time National women’s singles champion, to see an international event happen in the city is rare, and to see top paddlers in action rarer.

“It is better we lap it up,” said the 42-year-old, former International. “I played in the SAF Games in 1995, there has not been many International tournaments in the city after that [the 1999 Asian junior championship was the last major event in the city]. So to see the top players in flesh and blood will be really great, and certainly it will be a great motivation for the local players,” said the Commonwealth championship bronze medallist.

“The format is designed to produce several thrills,” said Muralidhara Rao, one of the coaches of UPP. “Since matches are best of three games, there will be several upsets. It will be easy for lower-ranked players and top-ranked players will be under lot of pressure. I am sure it will take the game to the next level,” he said.

The sport has certainly received a new lease of life, and the fraternity believes that it can only grow from here.