Table tennis in India may have seen an upward growth in its curve, but in its efforts to take the graph higher, it has also landed in messy territory, with star players like Manika Batra being at odds with Indian Table Tennis Federation (TTFI). In the throes of controversy and horrific court battles, table tennis in India has made headlines for reasons that are not the most desirable, as the interests of the Federation and those of the players clash, creating a space of confusion.
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After the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics, India’s first biggest challenge will be the 2021 Asian Table Tennis Championships in Doha, which will start on September 28 and end on October 5, 2021. With 7 categories for participation – Men and Women In team, doubles and individual and mixed doubles, the Asian Table Tennis Championships will serve as qualifiers for the 2022 World Team Championships in China. The Indian contingent will have seasoned paddlers Sharath Kamal (world No. 33) and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (world No. 38) to lead the men’s team while Sutirtha Mukherjee (world No. 95) will lead the female half, made up of a talented group of paddlers like Ayhika Mukherjee, Archana Kamath and Sreeja Akula.
In the immediate context of the biennial tournament, Indian table tennis saw a lot of drama unfold as TTFI left 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Manika Batra out of the squad for the Doha event. . Batra, who became the first Indian table tennis player to reach the third round of the Olympics, was not included in the contingent because she did not attend the national camp held in Sonepat before the Asian tennis championships. of table. The TTFI, in a rule said it is mandatory for players to attend the national camp to find themselves eligible for selection to the team – a rule which was immediately taken up by Batra and filed a petition against because she did not understand the “mandatory” nature of it. The Delhi High Court also sided with Batra for the interim period and upheld the reign of the TTFI – however, Batra has always been excluded from the squad.
Will Manika Batra’s absence create a gap?
After moving to Doha temporarily for the Asian Championships, 2019 Commonwealth Championships gold medalist Ayhika Mukherjee struck up a frank conversation with The Bridge, reflecting on recent events in Indian table tennis and looking forward to looking forward to the tournament. Placed in Group I, the women’s team includes Nepal and Jordan in their lineup and is ready to give their best early in the process. The only glaring lack of the team will be the absence of Manika Batra and Ayhika confessed, “Manika Didi is not playing this time … Personally I think there will be a gap without Manika Didi but I also believe that my other team members are playing great so we’ll do our best to close the gap, ”she said reassuringly.
As for her other teammates, Archana Kamath and Sreeja Akula gained a lot of momentum playing the WTT Star Contender in Doha where the former reached the quarters and the latter the pre-quarters, each causing major upheaval by beating the top ranked. . players. Plus, with China not in the mix, Indian table tennis players have a reason to breathe easy. “It’s a good opportunity for us … although there are a lot of other good teams like Korea, Hong Kong, Japan …”, conveyed Mukherjee.
National camps – yes or no?
Batra not being on the team for the championships, mainly due to the TTFI rule regarding compulsory participation in national camps – the easy question is, how important is this participation? Ayhika, who has frequented the national camps since her junior years, does not hesitate to give the true image and the reasons why some players choose to neglect the national camps. Admitting the advantage first, Ayhika mentions, “Attending national camps is good for everyone as it helps bond between team members… and under many coaches… I learned a lot. of things from the camps, ”confesses Mukherjee.
But that’s not all. Table tennis is a sport that depends heavily on the racquet you use, players have their patented racquets, train with specific coatings to their style, which makes it difficult in national camps to train with them. pretty much any other player. Ayhika, who has a very unique rubber that is only used by a few and which made the legendary Ding Ning sweat at the 2019 Asian Championships, where Mukherjee delivered a solid fight to the reigning Olympic champion.
Ayhika reveals one of the key factors and says, “Sometimes players like us who don’t have normal racquets like others have problems training with others. Well …” -she. “As I have a little button on the forehand and the anti type on the backhand… it’s very difficult to train with players like us… that’s why I play more multiball in my academy and in the camps as well, ”says Mukherjee.
As far as sparring is concerned, therefore, other players are reluctant to play against those with different facings as it might interfere with their own play, given the difference in facings. However, the camps are mostly crucial for creating team bonds more than anything, believes Ayhika, something which is very necessary before any major tournament, to get in the mood and the zone. Batra, also uses the long spiked rubber on his cuff just like Archana Kamath and the results with this have been seen by the world. Meanwhile, Sutirtha uses the small glitch on her forehand, just like Ayhika and Sreeja Akula uses soft rubber on both sides. This leaves players, especially seasoned ones, playing with the option of attending and not attending camp and devoting more time to individual training, which happens to be one of the main reasons for which players hang around in this case.