A bulk of India’s top table tennis players has again expressed reluctance to join a national training camp amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid the coronavirus-forced restrictions, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has repeatedly tried to organise camps for the top players, who have turned down the proposals. The TTFI has insisted that health of the players will be the priority whenever a camp is held, but the players have hesitated. Most of the top paddlers have cited the general uncertainty and travel restrictions.
The TTFI had reached out to the players twice in May for a training camp. The plans fell through after players voiced concerns. In the latest attempt to organise a camp, the TTFI wrote to players earlier this month, suggesting a 15-day camp starting on August 1. The players opposed the move.
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This will delay training as a team for the World Team Table Tennis Championships. The tournament was moved from March 2020 to June 2020 (provisionally) before being rescheduled to February 28-March 7, 2021, in South Korea.
M.P. Singh, the secretary general of TTFI, said most players do not wish to travel for a training camp. “We were initally looking at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), South Centre in Bengaluru, but they (the facility) said no because of lack of equipment. We then suggested Patiala and just six players out of 20 responded positively,” Singh told Sportstar .
-NEW NATIONAL TRAINING CENTRE-
Incidentally, senior players also want the federation to identify a new national training centre. The Indian team usually trains at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NSNIS), Patiala.
India’s top player, Sharath Kamal (world ranking 31), feels the facilities at Patiala are inadequate and there is a need for change.
“TT camps have always been in Patiala. But the hall there is very small and we don’t have proper facilities. We need to have a good base where the juniors and the seniors can practice throughout the year. Now that tournaments in 2020 are highly unlikely, a training centre like this becomes all the more important,” Sharath said.
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The TTFI has been pondering over alternatives such as SAI centres in Sonepat and Kolkata. The Madhya Pradesh Table Tennis Association’s (MPTTA) training centre at the Abhay Prashal Sports Club (APSC) in Indore is also the choice of some insiders.
The APSC has an exclusive table tennis facility, and was the preferred training location during former Indian coach Massimo’s Costantini’s stint in 2018.
-CURTAILED DOMESTIC SEASON-
The domestic calendar has also taken a hit as the federation will organise fewer ranking tournaments. The TTFI, every year, conducts five national ranking tournaments, inter-institutional championships for men and women, and national championships for all age categories. A lot now depends on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) calendar, which is expected to be released in the first week of August.