UTT a ‘world class event’, says Sharath Kamal

Former players have appreciated the inaugural season of India’s first-ever professional table tennis league, but admitted tweaks may have to be made to the format in future.

Ultimate Table Tennis lasted three weeks.   -  R. Ragu

India’s first-ever professional table tennis league, Ultimate Table Tennis, will have to address some teething issues for better impact next year, feel top players and administrators involved with the inaugural season.

There is unanimity over the need to change the format, which comprised nine three-game matches in a race to 14 points. On an average, a tie ended up lasting four hours. Arguably India’s finest player, Sharath Kamal, feels the format was bit of a drag. “It is something I have already conveyed to the organisers (11EVEN Sports). Nine matches were a bit too much. It took about four hours for the entire tie to get over, therefore making it tougher for fan engagement,” Sharath told PTI.

“I think keeping the tie duration under three hours can be the way forward. Having said that, there are bound to be some issues in the first year. The event overall was world class and made the Indian table tennis players feel special in their own country like never before,” said the World No. 43.

Playing a pro-league in India was a dream come true for Harmeet Desai, the World No. 79. Desai, however, also says the length of the league could have been longer. “Three weeks was a bit on the shorter side I felt. The leagues in Europe take place for a longer period. However, the overall feedback has been very positive. UTT is a much-needed boost to Indian table tennis and the players. Even the foreign players went back a happy lot. I am confident more foreigners will turn up for the second season,” Desai said.

‘Open to changes’

The league was aired on Star Sports, which played a major role in deciding the timings of the live broadcast. The tie began at 7.30 pm and often continued past 11 pm.

Former player Kamlesh Mehta, who is now a director at 11EVEN Sports, welcomed the feedback from all quarters. “The league finished on Sunday and we have already started working on Season Two. We have received a general feedback on the format and we are very much open to changes. In consultation with the broadcaster, we will work out a way to ensure the format is more engaging for the fans,” said Mehta.

While viewers enjoyed the high quality broadcast on television, spectator interest at the venue left a lot to be desired with not even 1000 turning up to watch the action in New Delhi. The attendance, however, was better in Mumbai and Chennai. “You can’t expect everything to go right in the first season. Other than the format, the organisers will have to work towards bringing in more people at the venue,” said a TTFI official, who requested anonymity.