At present, Indian table tennis presents a study in contrast.
On one hand, the men players are doing well. G. Sathiyan is breaking new ground. Sharath Kamal is hungry to prove that his best is yet to come. The presence of Commonwealth champion Harmeet Desai and the experienced SAF Games winner A. Amalraj add to the playing strength of the team that is eyeing one of the nine spots for the Tokyo Games available in the World Team Qualification in Gondomar, Portugal from January 22 to 26.
On the other hand, players are struggling in the absence of, not only a foreign coach but also a national coach.
With no time to wait, any further, for the plans to be made and get government clearances, Sharath, in consultation with those in authority in Government’s TOP scheme, has organised a 10-day preparatory camp in Chennai.
Besides other members of the Indian men’s team, Manika Batra, Reeth Rishaya and some local sparring partners will be part of this camp concluding on December 30. Archana Kamath is away owing to fitness issues.
“When I last spoke to Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) secretary M. P. Singh, he asked me whether it was possible to get a good foreign coach. I tried but realised it was too late. They already have their contracts and there was very little I could do,” shared Sharath, with exasperation in his voice hard to miss.
Elaborating on the significance of the event in Gondomar, Sharath said, “India is seeded fourth (behind South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Sweden) and even if we reach the quarterfinals, our berth for Tokyo will be booked. A week before that, we will head to Germany for a coaching camp.”
It may be recalled that after Italian Massimo Costantini chose not to renew his contract with India after the 2018 Asian Games citing personal reasons, the TTFI zeroed in on Dejan Papic from Canada. But he never signed the contract.
Singh lamented the absence of a foreign coach and said, “The way our negotiations went during the World championship, the TTFI was confident of Papic taking over at the earliest. But the delay caused on his part really hurt the interest of our players. Almost the whole of 2019 was lost.
“Now, we will look for a coach till the 2024 Olympics from the coaches that we meet at Gondomar. Let me assure you, there will be no delay from TTFI.”
He also revealed that two Korean coaches and their interpreters would soon arrive in India. Also, a high-performance National Training Centre was being planned at Gurugram or Sonepat, depending on the availability of land.
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