Sharath: ‘My target is to reach the top 30’

India’s top paddler, enjoying something of a second wind, hopes to win gold again at next year's Commonwealth Games.

Sharath Kamal is currently ranked 44 in the world.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

 

Sharath Kamal turns 35 in ten days' time but he is far from finished. Starting with the National Championships in January, through the Asian Championships and the Worlds, Sharath has been enjoying something of a second wind. Last month, he reached a world ranking of 44, his best since August 2015. He remains the world's top-ranked Indian table tennis player and is in no mood to slow down.

“I feel I'm playing my best table tennis now, even better than when I was 32 in the world (his career-best, May 2015),” he said here on Sunday. “My main target now is to reach the top 30. When I was 32 I suffered a hamstring injury and was out for six months. I've recovered completely. Two more good tournaments, and I'll be in the top 30.”

Sharath, who was chief guest at the Malleswaram Association state-ranking table tennis tournament, felt his personal life had contributed to this career revival. “After being injured, I worked a lot on my fitness. Also, there were a lot of changes in my personal life. Earlier, I was living in Europe and travelling to Chennai. Now, I'm staying more in Chennai. My wife is expecting our second child and my family needs me. I'm more relaxed in my head.”

‘Angry’

Recently, India's head coach Massimo Costantini had told Sportstar in Indore that Sharath could carry on playing till 2022, but the paddler himself was sceptical. “Until the Olympic Games, I thought that was the final target. Then I gave myself two years more. With my wife, the compromise was that till 2016 she gives me time and after 2016 I pack my bags. Unfortunately, I've been playing well. So she can't say much. And she's very angry with Constantini for saying 2022 (laughs). 'Then who will take care of the kids?' she asks. 2022 is not what I'm looking at,” he said.

His target instead was to win gold again at next year's Commonwealth Games, Sharath revealed. “I'm looking at 2018. I want to win back the gold, in singles or doubles; at least one gold. I want to hear the National anthem of India. After that I want to plan for 2020 but I will take it year by year.”

India needed more men's players higher up in the rankings, Sharath felt. “They (the younger players) are beating me. It's just that internationally my game is superior to theirs. It's time they bridged the gap. They are doing it. Harmeet Desai (81) and Soumyajit Ghosh (84) are there. G. Sathiyan (102) is just outside the top 100. They are bridging the gap but in the next few years they have to overtake me. That is how Indian table tennis will improve.”