This close to Olympics, new coach Papic should work with existing system, says Sharath Kamal

Indian table tennis star Sharath Kamal said new head coach Dejan Papic should look to "make changes within the existing system" as a new system would be tough to adapt ahead of next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Sharath Kamal will be playing in his fourth Olympics at the 2020 Tokyo Games.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Veteran Indian table tennis star Sharath Kamal hopes the arrival of new national coach, Dejan Papic, does not affect the existing system in place with just one year left for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Canada's Papic accepted the one-year contract offered by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to coach the Indian team on Tuesday and will join next month.

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Sharath, who is currently ranked 32 in the world, said the new coach will have to be content with just tweaking things to enhance the players' performance.

“We are growing and we have found a system. The new coach will have to make changes within the existing system. Because if he tries to put in place a new system this close to the Olympics things might go haywire,” said Sharath, who will play for the Chennai Lions in the new season of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT).

Former coach Massimo Costantini quit after the Asian Games last year citing personal reasons. Indian table tennis had made rapid strides under him with historic performances at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games, where the country ended a 60-year-wait for a table tennis medal.

“It is very difficult to coach India because it is such a huge country. It will take a while for the coach to understand the system and the players. Our main focus will be the Olympics,” Sharath said.

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The 37-year-old also asserted that both the paddlers and Papic will have to meet halfway to make their association successful. “The coach and paddlers need to come together. We have been working with or without a national coach. I have done it for 15 years, Sathiyan has been doing it, Manav (Thakkar) is also learning because it’s an individual sport,” said Sharath, who will be competing in his fourth Olympics.

“The coach can help us but we need to work on ourselves individually. So I think we need to come to terms with coach he has to come along with us instead of trying to create a new system. He can do that after Olympics. He needs to follow the existing system,” he added.

Talking about the Olympics, Sharath said Indian table tennis is progressing in the right direction and that the nation has a strong team in place. “We have improved tremendously since the last Olympic games. In 2016, in the men’s team event we finished 25th and now are world number 11. We also got our first medal in 60 years at the Asian Games,” he said.

“We are in the right direction and are doing quite well, it’s because of the system created by TTFI, UTT and SAI that we have been able to build a strong team and not individual excelling at singles events,” he added.

- Growth of Indian table tennis has forced China and South Korea to notice us -

Sharath also felt that India’s recent streak of strong performances at the Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games grabbed eye-balls aplenty in table-tennis powerhouses like China and South Korea.

“The teams are putting us on a very high level in world competitions. Olympic silver medallist Kim Taek-Soo from South Korea came after the Asian games and said told us Indian team has become very strong now,” said Sharath.

“Chinese coaches also lined up and clapped for us even though we didn’t beat them but because we put up a strong fight. So we know everyone is watching the growth of Indian Table Tennis,” he added.