Tia and Tisha Mundenkurian did not have much of a break between matches at the ongoing Duroflex Kerala State table tennis championships at the YMCA here. And since the 13-year-old twin sisters from Irinjalakuda play in four age categories – under 15, 17, 19 and women in singles and doubles apart from the team event – their matches are many, perhaps even 20 on some days.
“We get just some two or three minutes gap between matches. After one match, immediately comes the next. In the evenings, we cannot even move from the bed,” said Tia, in a chat with Sportstar. And Tisha nodded in agreement.
But why do these girls play so many matches at such a young age? Will it not lead to injuries?
“That’s because we are both in the district team, and our team wants to win. So, we and our coach decided that we play more age groups,” said Tia.
Coach Bobby Joseph, who played a major role in making Alappuzha the capital of Kerala table tennis by churning out a steady stream of champions a few years ago, explained how he handled the situation.
“It’s good to get exposure, and Tia and Tisha are very promising. Even I used to do that with Maria Rony (former Kerala champion, now Karnataka champion) and Seraha Jacob. But I made them skip one category...the focus was always on the women’s section,” said Bobby.
Kerala badminton also has a similar problem, but it has found a solution.
THE WAY AROUND
“We have a rule for this, but we also make sure that players can get around it. Our rule says players cannot play more than two age categories in any tournament. But we don’t conduct more than two age categories in any State championship,” explained Rakesh Sekhar, the Kerala Badminton Association secretary.
“Instead, we have three State championships, each on different dates and venues, and players can play in all of them without breaking our rule since they are held separately.”
But that is not a luxury the Table Tennis Association of Kerala can afford.
“Yes, some people have suggested separating the championships as three different ones, but who will conduct them? Funds are a problem in table tennis,” said Michael Mathai, the TTAK secretary.