NEW DELHI: India’s table tennis
players, sans some of the top stars, have assembled for a 40-day national camp
, Haryana, after almost a seven-month hiatus forced by the coronavirus pandemic; but the chances of hiring a foreign coach on the road to qualifying for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics next year remain close to none.
Among the leading names featured at the camp to be held at the Delhi Public School (DPS) in Sonepat will be India’s top-ranked paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal
. The players arrived for the camp on Wednesday and will be in mandatory quarantine for five days, after which they will undergo a Covid-19 test before starting training.
However, two of India’s noted players in the TT circuit, Sathiyan Gnansekaran and Manika Batra, will be missing.
Sathiyan has just returned from his short stint in the Polish league and will be playing in the league in Japan next, while Manika has decided to continue training at her base in Pune. Also absent will be Harmeet Desai, who is currently training in Germany, and Sreeja Akula, who has excused herself on personal grounds.
It is not mandatory for the players to be present for the camp, which will be held under the supervision of former India player Sunil Babras.
(File image of Kamlesh Mehta talking to Indian players – TOI Photo)
The Indian team has been without a head coach since September 2018 when Massimo Costantini resigned from the position. In July 2019, Dejan Papic was appointed as replacement but he failed to join due to medical reasons.
Secretary of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), MP Singh, said it’s highly unlikely that a foreign coach will be appointed before the Olympics, which have been rescheduled for July 23 to August 8 in 2021.
“It’s almost impossible,” said Singh talking to Timesofindia.com. “Earlier, it was planned that we will get someone before the end of 2020, but that hasn’t happened. Can’t do anything about it.”
“SAI has said that we (TTFI) can appoint one or two coaches. No issues for them,” Singh further said. But most of the top coaches are unavailable, and the coronavirus pandemic has added to the roadblocks.
Singh further added that if after the World Championships, which is expected to be held around March next year, any of the coaches become free or are released by any country, the federation might look at them.
(File image of Achanta Sharath Kamal – Getty Images)
‘ALL OF US NEED COACHES’
When Timeosfindia.com asked ace Indian paddler Sharath Kamal about the possibility of India getting another foreign coach, the world No. 31 said, “Nothing as of now, and there’s also no chance at this point of time, getting a foreigner into India. We will have to wait and see.”
The 38-year-old veteran said the federation is doing its bit but the players can’t not have a head coach.
“…a coach for the national camp always helps. They (head coaches) make the plans, do everything around the team’s preparation. With the kind of make-shift arrangement that we have now, at least they (TTFI) are able to support us using these training camps,” said Sathiyan who, from time to time, personally hires the coaching services of Sweden’s Linus Mernsten, besides being helped by his father, Srinivasa Rao, who is also a Dronacharya award winner.
The nine-time national champion is of the opinion that no matter how big or established a player is, a coach is always the one who is able to point out those “minute details” the players need to improve on.
“When Roger Federer himself is looking for a coach, who are we? All of us need coaches. We know the drill, we know what is to be done. But those minute details, like this is not coming out (the right way) or just do a little bit more on that, getting more into that 5 to 10 percent of detail just adds up to getting that perfect shot, that is the coach’s job,” the eight-time Commonwealth Games medallist (including four gold medals) explained.
Sharath also won two historic bronze medals in the men’s team and mixed doubles events for India at the 2018 Asian Games.