Sridhar cherishes Rio memories

As the first blue badge umpire from India to officiate in Rio Olympics, Sridhar Srinivasan relishes his experience of being part of the quadrennial extravaganza. “It was great (at Rio), and it could probably be my last as well,” the 60-year-old told Sportstar.

Sridhar Srinivasan at the Ultimate Table Tennis League at the Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.   -  R. Ragu

As the first blue badge umpire from India to officiate in Rio Olympics, Sridhar Srinivasan relishes his experience of being part of the quadrennial extravaganza.

“It was great (at Rio), and it could probably be my last as well,” the 60-year-old from Mumbai told Sportstar here on Thursday.

After the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) introduced a new rule recently which states that no one umpire from a country can do duty in back to back Olympics so that other blue badge umpires from the particular country, too, get opportunities.

Reliving his first day at the Games, Sridhar said he had to officiate on the Centre Court the match involving Ma Long of China.

“He was my favourite, and I was a bit lenient when he indulged in time wasting tactics. Later I was told by my colleagues that ‘you have to be strict and follow the rules and it should be the same for all players.’ “You have to be impartial, I was told,” said Sridhar.

According to Sridhar, being a part of Rio Olympics was like getting a life-time achievement award and an Arjuna award. “There was pressure but there was the pride of representing the country,” he said.

Sridhar, who has officiated in several World championships from the year 2000, said he prefers to do duty in team championships and not in individual event. “That way, I can watch all the players. If Ma long loses in singles, then I can't see him again in other matches whereas in team event I can see him (Ma Long) in many matches,” explained Sridhar.

With a touch of pride, Sridhar said he was rated high by ITTF after his duty at the World championship in Dusseldorf in May-June this year. “ITTF evaluates the umpires for the way he/she walks in for a match, how you conduct the match, your voice and how you use your hand,” he said.

On the Ceat Ultimate Table Tennis League, Sridhar says it is a league where spectators enjoy the atmosphere. “As far as rules are concerned, UTT is flexible. For example, in one match, two teams sported the same colour in their jersey, and it was allowed. If ITTF rules have been followed, the teams would not have been allowed to play,” he said. But the purpose of the league is to popularise the sport and in that way, it doesn't matter in a big way, he said.

According to Sridhar, at UTT one can relax and enjoy the atmosphere unlike in ITTF events where there is no time to relax. Sridhar hopes that UTT sits with the TTFI Technical Committee so that things are sorted out, for the league to get better in the coming years.

He, however, sees a bright future for Indian umpiring. “We are third in terms of number of blue badge umpires (19) only next to China and Germany. “Thanks to Dhanraj Choudhary (former Table Tennis FederatIon of India Secretary) and Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer's (TTFI Competitions Manager), efforts and encouragement, India has been able to get more opportunities at the global level, he said.

Sridhar, who is the elder brother of former National singles champion S. Sriram, is enjoying his umpiring and has no regrets. "There is no big goal left for me. I am always in touch with the rule changes and will continue to do my best," he signed off.