Making a comeback after childbirth, Shamini keen to return to national team

After taking a break for nearly 16 months, K. Shamini is getting back to the table to face youngsters, some of them who are nearly half her age.

K. Shamini in action at the 11Sports-West Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament.   -  Jignesh Mistry

Three-time National table tennis champion K. Shamini is not completely satisfied with the manner her comeback season -- after childbirth -- has played out. The 30-year-old, a Commonwealth Games medalist, is determined to improve her game and stake a claim for a spot in the Indian team in the near future.

Barring the East Zone event in Guwahati, she has played all the domestic events this year. Her best was a quarterfinal finish in the first tournament -- North Zone in Panchkula. After taking a break for nearly 16 months, getting back to the table to face youngsters, some of them who are nearly half her age, is no easy task.

“I felt I have slowed down a bit when compared to earlier days. My fitness and endurance has gone down, though my touch and ball sense remains intact,” she said, after beating Shiney Gomes in the final qualification match to make it to the main draw of the 11Sports-West Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament here on Saturday.

Shamini stressed that she would devote her focus to working on her fitness in the coming days. “I am not able to do much fitness because of the baby, but I am doing it nevertheless as and when I find time,” she said.

The veteran paddler felt that with the advent of plastic balls, rallies have become longer. Hence, the need to have more power and strength to engage in rallies has also increased.

“All the [top] juniors are playing well. I am yet to reach my peak. With the [plastic] ball you require more power and strength. After pregnancy I lacked power. If I improve on my fitness and strengthening, things will get better,” said Shamini, who is now coached by Rajath Kamal and V. S. Rajan at Jawahar Vidyalaya Academy, Chennai.

Shamini, who was part of the Indian women’s team in three CWG campaigns from 2006, said she was happy for the victorious Indian teams that participated in the 2018 CWG.

“I was very happy [for the team], but as a professional I felt bad that I couldn’t be a part of the team. I got a better gift in the form of a baby girl. I am more [than] happy,” she said.

Shamini hasn’t set any time-frame to make her comeback into the Indian team. “This year and the next year, the focus will be more on my baby. I will work as hard as I can and hope for the best,” she said.