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Regulars rewarded

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Please accept my heartiest, though belated, New Year greetings.

 

I could have wished you all before but, as you know, we were all busy preparing and conducting the nationals, one after another. I was waiting for the senior nationals to get over at Hyderabad. I once again wish you all the best in the New Year and the new season.

 

Let’s make the new season as fascinating and memorable as the year that went by. On the international front we may not have achieved much as the TTFI would have wished. Yet, it was not a bad outing for our paddlers—from world championships to Asian championships.

 

Sharath’s summit

 

Achanta Sharath Kamal reached his pinnacle in world ranking, the best ever by an Indian, when he was ranked No. 32 in the world. Unfortunately, despite a very good form, he suffered a hip injury that put him off the medal reckoning in China.

 

In the Asian Championships at Pattaya, our men’s and women’s teams did extremely well. Though a continental championship, it had all world beaters like China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong competing. Against this background the Indian teams did extremely well, particularly the men squad qualifying for the Champions Division which was creditable.

 

At home, we had bagful of medals from the four international events—Asian Cup at Jaipur, SAF championships at Delhi, the India Open and Commonwealth Championships—which go on to prove our claim of our junior and senior players shaping up well.

 

In fact, it was at the Asian Cup that Sharath hit a fine form which he continued until the world championships at Shouzu in China. Both SAF and India Open events were swept through by the Indians. The junior crops that we have are immensely talented and, as a proof, a couple of players qualified for the Hopes and World Cadet Challenge events. Dia Chitale, Shrusti Halengadi and Payas Jain became our future hopes. India Open, true to its name, was a happy outing for our teams despite the presence of Iran which had higher-ranked paddlers in their ranks.  

 

The Commonwealth Championships at Surat was equally rewarding. Our men’s squad won gold after 11 years when Sharath led-squad did it for the first time in Malaysia in 2004. We had bagged 16 medals in all, including silver by our women’s team. However, both singles gold went the Singapore way.

 

The previous high for India in the event were nine medals and surpassing the tally augurs well. Incidentally, Mouma Das became the first woman paddler to bag maximum Commonwealth medals, a great achievement for the diminutive paddler’s perseverance.

 

Changing scenario

 

The senior nationals at Hyderabad were an eye-opener for many ambitious paddlers. Nobody could grudge the fact of PSPB’s domination in team events because of solid bench strength. But what brought the much-needed change was in the singles—Manika Batra emerged as the new champion and Anthony Amalraj, a second-time champion, after Lucknow nationals.

 

But the biggest turnaround was that the two regulars at the national ranking tournaments the past season have won the singles titles. What the two achieved could not be replicated by those who had been going abroad to train and play the league to gain experience. The message is loud and clear. Unless you get acclimatized to home conditions—after his 0-4 loss to G. Sathiyan in the semifinals Sharath admitted as much as Soumyajit Ghosh when he lost to Amalraj—it is difficult to win. One, however, felt pity for Sathiyan who, despite being in two successive men’s finals, could not win the title. He lost his father during the East Zone championships but had come back strongly to put up a brave performance. Incidentally, Soumyajit became the third Indian to break into the top-100 after Kamlesh Mehta and Sharath Kamal.

 

Coming to the Cadet and Junior and Youth players’ performance, one must admit that there is no dearth of talent in the country. Tamil Nadu’s Cadet Boys and Girls culminated the season with well-deserving titles, Gujarat captured the Junior and Rajasthan the Youth crowns. What all these finals showed was the healthy competitions among states. In other words, the state units of the TTFI also need to be praised for their unrelenting efforts to up the standards in their respective states. West Bengal, for instance, won the Junior Girls’ title at the nationals in Kolkata. It was a good comeback for them as they had put behind the past and moved ahead. But their boys do need some more goading.

 

First-timers do well

 

As for organization, all nationals had some limitations but first-timer Dharamsala (read Himachal Pradesh) passed the muster for its impressive conduct. Kolkata provided the best accommodation, and Hyderabad served good food.

 

Again another first-timer Jamnagar conducted the best national-ranking championship despite a horrible weather. South Zone saw a whopping 1610 entries. It is no way to suggest other units did badly, but there is room for improvement because once a standard is set by a state unit, TTFI expects it to be maintained throughout, if not better it.

 

Indore has become the hub of table tennis activities with four events, including 11Even Sports National School finals, the para-selection and the forthcoming World Juniors Finals in January 2016. The schools’ event was a great hit and it will be our endeavour to continue and do it in a better way from the new season. We also have the pro-league beginning this year and we are hopeful that it will have the all-round support. We do have other plans up our sleeve in a tie-up with 11Even Sports for the benefit of players, umpires and referees.

 

The season-opener Institutional Championships, conducted by the Railway Sports Promotion Board in New Delhi, was equally impressive.

 

This year we saw new entrants in equipment and flooring suppliers. Stag, one of the oldest in business, does not need any introduction. Neither do Stiga need any. Of the other two, Metco and Donic, the former took the cake. Donic needs to pull up their socks.

 

This year is an Olympic year and our paddlers will have to really do well to make an impression. The selectors have already chosen the players who will be participating in the qualifiers. TTFI’s best wishes are always with them. Let the best man and woman qualify.

 

Our plus is that the executive board and the selection committee have been meeting regularly and taking fast track decisions to help improve the sport.  

 

Old habits die hard

 

Some state units are still not taking the online entry system seriously and they must give up the old habits and adapt themselves to the new, healthy ones. Unless they do, it will pose problems to the competition wing of the TTFI. I can understand some problems cropping up initially, but when the system is two seasons old we expect people to have absorbed it by now. Complacency or any laid-back attitude on the part of state units cannot be accepted. We should be trendsetters and not violators. I sincerely hope, in the new season each one of you will cooperate on all counts.

 

While reviewing the past season, I cannot but praise the competition department’s unstinted support. Team leader Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, his referees’ team comprising Anil Dubey, A.S. Kler, T.G. Upadhya did a marvelous job, all under pressure.

 

Equally important was the roles of our media and web managers, R. Ramachandran and Sagar Kant Singh. Their meticulous job helped disseminate all table tennis news throughout the country to news agencies and newspapers. All results and reports were uploaded on our site and certificates to participants were distributed on time.    

 

This is our strength, thanks to the credible people we have.

 

D.R. Choudhary

Secretary-General

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