UTT a ‘great beginning’, say players

India’s top players unanimous in their support for the upcoming league.

Sharath Kamal... “If the [UTT] provides exposure in training and playing with the top players, it would be great.”   -  PTI

Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) has been hailed as the best thing to have happened to Indian paddlers. Playing in a league is, however, not something new to the Indians. All the top men, including Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Harmeet Desai, G. Sathiyan and A. Amalraj, have figured in pro leagues abroad.

Sportstar spoke to them on the foreign leagues and whether it would have an impact on the UTT. Most of the European leagues are held for eight to 10 months, giving the players enough opportunities to display their wares against top players.

Ranked 44th in the world, Sharath Kamal, 34, has been India's torchbearer for more than a decade. He said that at this point in his career he would like to spend more time with his family, and UTT has come as a shot in the arm for him. “UTT is just a 17-day event and it would be better if it is extended for one or two months,” he said. In that case, Sharath said he will seriously consider playing in UTT, foregoing his other commitments.

"If the league provides exposure in training and playing with the top players, it would be great," said Sharath, the biggest buy among Indians at Rs. seven lakhs.

‘Best of both worlds’

For Sathiyan, it means “the best of both worlds.” Foreign leagues, he said, happen from September to May and Europe is the powerhouse of world Table Tennis. Around 20 Pro Tours happen in and around Europe - effectively 50 to 60 per cent of the action overall - and so it makes sense to play there. "UTT, in that direction, is a great beginning,” said the 24-year-old, ranked 102nd in the world.

Sharath has been playing in the German pro league for the last seven years.

Ghosh, Harmeet and Sathiyan have been playing in Poland.

Amalraj played in the Spanish league last season.

Soumyajit Ghosh, ranked 84th, concurred. “The league is only for two weeks. If it extends, we can think of not playing for a European club. At the moment, it is not possible,” he said.

Harmeet Desai, who turns out for a Polish super division club, said playing both the leagues is tough, but manageable. “It is difficult to manage [both]. However, our club is supportive and has given us the option to play according to our convenience. Playing in Europe is more beneficial as most of the players train there,” said Harmeet.

On the other hand, Amalraj, who demonstrated his skills in the Spanish/Polish leagues, is not too keen to play in leagues abroad. For him, UTT is enough. “My aim is to improve my rankings and I don’t want to lose focus. Foreign leagues can wait,” he said.

The players are unanimous that UTT has given the Indians a solid platform, and feel that if it succeeds and extends its duration, it would save them the hassles of travelling and spending a long time away from their families. Not to forget the world-class exposure at their doorstep.