As the curtains are drawn for the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014, there are mixed reactions by the table tennis fraternity all over India. Some have been optimistic, some sad, some expressed their anger, but most of them were simply, disappointed. Frankly, we all are disappointed because the team brought back just one silver medal as against 5 in the Delhi edition four years ago. We as spectators, players and contributors who are so closely connected to the game in several ways are deeply disappointed, imagine the plight of the coaches and the 10 member team who actually experienced it. The blame game continues and everyone, very conveniently, are expressing their anger.
But I really don’t want to get into that because it will not lead us anywhere. I feel proud of that one silver medal. It means a lot to the team and the entire table tennis family. We must not forget the hard work and sacrifices the players have made. We definitely need to address the issues where we faltered, but first, I d like to share few points that struck to me immediately.
The doubles event is the unsung hero of Indian table tennis. In the past two editions of the CWG, we have won 6 medals out of which 3 were from doubles, namely, gold in men doubles (Sharath Kamal/Subhajit Saha,2010), bronze in women doubles (Poulomi Ghatak/MoumaDas,2010) and silver in men doubles (Sharath Kamal/A.Amalraj,2014). Despite a good show in the doubles category, it has not been taken seriously. The doubles is an event where you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your partner very well. It involves a great chemistry between the two players and needs special attention during practice sessions. In Glasgow, Amalraj paired up Sharath for the first time. It was coach, Peter Engel’s decision to pair them up because Amalraj is strong close to the table and Sharath is powerful off the table and together, they proved to be a deadly combination. The way in which they thrashed the pair from Singapore in the semi finals, was commendable. The indifferent attitude towards doubles and mixed doubles must change. This can be done by introducing these events in the national ranking tournaments and have a ranking system just like it is for the singles. Also, cash awards for the same must be given in the national rankings and national championships. If this can be done, the players will find the best suitable partner and we can do much better in international events.
I truly believe that Sharath Kamal is a living legend. He has been bringing laurels to the nation right from 2004 when he first won the singles gold in Commonwealth Championship in Kuala Lumpur. Since then the 3 editions of the Commonwealth Games he has won 2 gold medals in Melbourne (2006), 1 gold and 2 bronze medals in Delhi (2010) and 1 silver medal in Glasgow (2014). That’s 10 long years of consistent performance! This is just the Commonwealth I have mentioned, his long list of achievements also include winning the US Open and Egypt Open in 2010, winning the prestigious German Bundesliga this year and many more. He might have not been able to defend his national championship title but he delivers where it is the most needed, proving his might and shutting up the critics. In Glasgow, he was certainly an improved version of himself. We all know his medal count and the amazingly powerful forehand he has, but little do we know about the kind of life he leads. Ask him someday to share his stories, and you will find that his life has been full of sacrifices, hard work, discipline and struggle, every single day. He is a man with a very strong character. He’s high on success and a role model for many, and yet, he’s grounded. And this is what sets him class apart. It’s not only his achievements that fascinate me, it’s also his attitude on and off the table which makes me conclude that such people are true legends.
The Glasgow games also brought out the best of a few young ones who stunned the world with their spectacular performances. Manika Batra, currently ranked 141 was the one to cause a major upset when she beat Yu Meng Yu of Singapore who is ranked 10th in the world! She proved her consistency by winning 6 out of the 8 matches she played in the team events. In the singles, she was the lone Indian to reach till the quarter finals stage. Manika has a long way to go, this was her first Games, and at 19 years of age, she is the highest ranked Indian (141 in August 2014) according to the ITTF World Rankings. This young lady has the talent, is determined to work hard, and I sincerely hope that she does wonders in the future.
In the men’s side it was Harmeet Desai, ranked 147th in the world, who gave us goose bumps in the semi final stage of the men’s team event. India lost the match against England 1-3, in which Harmeet lost his 4th single to Liam Pitchford, ranked 59, 2-3 but all those who saw the match live, will agree with me that Harmeet was certainly the hero of the evening who won hearts. He was 0-2 down (5-11, 6-11), and in the 3rd set it was 4-10 when Pitchford needed only 1 point to wrap up the match but little did he know that it was going to be herculean task ahead which seemed like a cakewalk. Harmeet, like a true warrior, fought back and won that game 12-10 ( winning 8 points in a row) making it 1-2 and then went on winning the 4th set 12-10 leveling to 2-2. In the decider, he was leading 8-5, but I will call it unfortunate that he ended up losing the game 15-17! Harmeet in total saved 11 match points, before losing out on the 12th one. It was definitely an effort which was applauded all over the world. The young man from Gujarat remained calm and focused throughout the match and displayed courage which matched that of somebody attempting to climb the Mt.Everest. He must have been disappointed, but I look at it as a match which will always be remembered in the history of the Commonwealth Games.
They say that we must look into the positive side of everything, and that’s what I just did.
Keeping the disappointment aside, we must understand that its sport. It treats everyone equally; the game starts with love all. Rankings don’t matter, because on a particular given day, the one who is the best, wins. Winning and losing is a part of this beautiful world of sport, and what matters the most is the sincere effort and the courage and the will to fight until the last point. Of course, one must reflect and analyze what went wrong, but from now on, it’s all about looking forward, working harder than ever before and bringing back the lost glory in Gold Coast in 2018.
As for me, I miss the games already. The newspapers are back writing huge columns on Cricket and the sports channel are busy showing their favorite and most entertaining (read boring) game.
But the clock is ticking; and up next is the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea from 19th September to 4th October 2014.