A unique path to success for Sushmit Sriram

Sushmit, India No. 5, has done remarkably well in recent months by his own standards.

Sushmit Sriram attributes his growth to his local coaches at Maharishi Vidya Mandir Club, Chetpet, and the exposure to Bundesliga. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In India, it is rare to see a male paddler using short pimple on forehand and anti-top rubber on backhand and rise up the ranks. Sushmit Sriram has successfully bucked the trend.

The 27-year-old has done remarkably well by his own standards. In the last domestic season, Sushmit reached the final of the South Zone event in Thiruvananthapuram and entered the semifinals in Central Zone in Bhavnagar and East Zone in Kolkata. He has now reached a career-high ranking of No. 5 in the country.

Sushmit said his game has definitely improved as he has been able defeat players whom he had never beaten earlier.

In the South Zone event, he overcame former National champion Sanil Shetty in the semifinals. But his rise to fame was when he defeated England’s Sam Walker, ranked 86 then, in the pre-quarters of the Commonwealth championship in Cuttack last year.

Bundesliga experience

Sushmit attributed his gradual growth to playing at the Bundesliga third division league in Germany and his local coaches V. Vasu and V. M. Ravi Venkatesh at Maharishi Vidya Mandir Club, Chetpet. “I’ve been playing in Germany since 2016. It has given me a lot of exposure and experience of playing under pressure in team matches against different players with different styles. Of course, playing with different sparring partners in Chennai helped me,” he said.

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Sushmit, ranked 406 in the world, said he has to play in more Pro Tours and the entire domestic tournaments to get into the top 200 in the world and be among the top three or four in India. “Table Tennis Federation of India goes largely by world rankings and the rest by your domestic performances. I want to be a part of the Commonwealth Games squad [by 2022],” he said.

Sushmit said it’s been tough without a big sponsor or a steady job. The Airport Authority of India is a sponsor, but that is not enough.

Sushmit insisted it is possible to perform better in the new season given the COVID-19 interruption. “I have to start everything from scratch, but I have the confidence,” said Sushmit.