I haven’t got my answers: Harmeet Desai on Asian Games singles exclusion

The national selectors persisted with A. Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan as the singles entries for the Asian Games ahead of top-ranked Harmeet.

Published : Jul 28, 2023 21:19 IST , Pune - 3 MINS READ

Harmeet Desai during the UTT.
Harmeet Desai during the UTT. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Harmeet Desai during the UTT. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Harmeet Desai has been Goa Challengers’ leading light in the Ultimate Table Tennis. But more than his exploits on the table over here, Harmeet has been in the news for speaking his mind about being excluded as one of India’s two singles entries for the forthcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou.

Even before India’s squad was officially announced on July 7, Harmeet, who was an integral part of India’s men’s team that won a historic bronze in the 2018 Asian Games, on July 5 had written to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) with a request to consider his stature as India’s highest-ranked paddler in the world.

But the national selectors persisted with A. Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan, who have been the most consistent Indian paddlers in the international arena over the last decade, as the singles entries.

READ | TTFI names 10-member squad for Asian championships, Asian Games 2022

Almost a month since being given a cold shoulder again, Harmeet is still not satisfied with the reasons cited to him but stresses that there is no bad blood between him and any other player.

“I haven’t got the answers. My question is during the Commonwealth Games 2022, I wasn’t picked for the singles when my World ranking was better than one of the players. Then, the national ranking was considered. I was No. 2 in national rankings because I couldn’t play a tournament due to my wedding,” Harmeet, who tops the national rankings as of now, told Sportstar in a candid chat ahead of the UTT semifinals.

“There is no consistency. That’s my question. If India ranking was considered back then, why not now? In future, if my ranking drops either in India or internationally, they might raise the same point.”

Harmeet was informed by the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) that since the entries had to be submitted before June 30, the national selectors had to take international rankings as on June 27 into consideration. For the last three weeks, Harmeet has been the highest-ranked India paddler and the gap between him and the other two has been widening with every passing week.

“It’s not clear in the selection criteria how the singles team will be picked. If you just see the criteria, my points overall are way above. I just need clarity, that’s it. Everybody is working hard. I am not questioning anybody’s ability or anybody’s level of play,” Harmeet said.

“There should be consistency in selection. If someone says that the Federation was different, the selectors are the same, during CoA and now. So my question is valid and there is no answer to it.”

Come September and the trio will defend India’s medal. Harmeet insisted the players’ camaraderie will not be affected due to him speaking his mind.

“No player is to be blamed for selection, so there is no bad feeling amongst us. This time it’s me, it could have been them. I know this happens in sport,” he said.

“Everyone thinks he or she deserves more but in my case it’s not that. I wanted to make a point so that it doesn’t happen to anyone - me or anyone else - in future.”

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