Saturday, May 9, 2015


Hyatt Regency glittered with glory on 7th may 2015. And why not, the best of India’s sporting heroes were present, all under one roof-- a rare occasion. It was an evening to celebrate Indian sports and the sportspersons, to acknowledge their achievements, to make them feel worthy of who they are and to further inspire them and all other Indian athletes to be the best in the world.

I cannot thank the Times group enough for the Bollywood-ish award function which was so glamorous.  It was a pleasure to see the players styled up, looking fantabulous, beautiful than any of the top actors.
Gorgeous Dipika Pallikal- TOISA Squash Player of the Year

With Gaurav Kapoor as the host of the evening, awards were presented in various categories of sports including Badminton, Athletics, Boxing, Shooting, Golf, Chess, Squash, Billiards, Wrestling, Football and Table Tennis to name a few.

Each sport had two categories- People’s Choice and Jury’s Choice. In Table Tennis, the Jury’s Choice award- TOISA Table Tennis Player of the Year was awarded to my favourite Sharath Kamal and People’s Choice went to the only woman nominee Ankita Das. Everything was perfect about the evening; just that Sharath Kamal was missed-he’s currently in Germany nursing a leg injury.

Sharath Kamal- TOISA Table Tennis Player of the Year

Badminton queen Saina Nehwal was awarded the TOISA Youth Icon of the Year trophy by the former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly akka dada.
Sourav Ganguly waiting for Saina Nehwal to collect her award

Magnificent Mary won the Boxer of the year Award and Panjak Advani won the Sportsperson of the Year- Popular Choice Award which along with the trophy included a surprise gift- Mahindra Scorpio Car!
Pankaj Advani with the surprise!

TOISA Trophy- studded with Swarovski 

 Apart from India’s current top athletes, the highlight of the evening were the Sporting Legends - Milka Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Saurav Ganguly and Col Rajyawardhan Rathod to name a few. 
But the star of the evening was the legendary Carl Lewis- the Sportsperson of the Century making his presence in the most inspiring way ever. He had a special message for India-“ Stop thinking that you are not going to be as good as others. You are a billion people. You want me to believe that you cannot find one fast guy, one fast girl? Athletics is perfection and there is a model of perfection. So, shoot for the model. India is great in cricket because you have a history and you believe you are the best in cricket. Its about confidence. There are too many people to not have talent. It;s just that they talk themselves down.”
Carl Lewis

Milkha Singh expressed his desire to see India winning a medal at the Olympics, which he missed by a narrow margin.  The passion in his voice speaks volumes about his commitment and dedication to sport. He was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award by the legend Carl Lewis.

He was udoubtedly the man in demand, also being requested by The Miss.India 2014, Afreen Vas, for a quick selfie :-)

The Flying Sikh and Miss.India!
Some women achievers, the unsung heroes of Indian sport. We salute you all!!!




An evening with so many achievers around, you only feel inspired further to serve the nation and give in your best in whatever you do.

The TOISA winners

Myself with Sindhu & Amalraj- such grounded players

Panel discussion on the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics 

Such awards are necessary, especially in a country like India, where apart from a few, sport is not considered a valuable career option. Such a motivation only supports your decision to do sport and applauds your dedication, hard work  & commitment. When the society acknowledges your efforts it feels great, because at the end of the day you are all alone in your quest for gold, because the country
is obsessed with engineers and doctors.

Thank you TOISA.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


World Rankings released by the ITTF after the just concluded Qoros World Table Tennis Championship held at Suzhou, China has bought smiles to Indians all over the world. Sharath Kamal defeated Simon Gauzy of France to enter round of 32 but had to unfortunately withdraw from the tournament because of an injury in the adductor muscle in the right leg.The moment Sharath Kamal felt the excruciating pain, my heart almost skipped a beat. He was leading 3-0 and 6-5 against Simon Gauzy of France and was just 5 points away to the last 32 in the world championship when the unfortunate event happened. I felt this was unfair- unfair to him as well as to Indian Table Tennis. This was his first major injury which came at a point when he was playing the best table tennis of life.
Picture courtsey-ITTF

 But what followed next reinforced my belief that he is the greatest Indian TT player and a living legend. If you haven’t watched the match yet, you are missing something totally unbelievable and spectacular. After the medical timeout at 3-0, 6-5, he lost the 4th set, but the way he pulled off the 5th set and thus the entire match is the testimony of the level of perseverance and mind games he can play. Despite being injured, he tackled the balls so beautifully by staying close to the table and focusing more on a strong defence so quick and aggressive which left his opponent bewildered from the start till the end. Sharath finished the last point in style- hitting a forehand counter spin cross court at a speed which even the best of the Chinese would rarely produce. Before the injury Sharath kept Gauzy uncomfortable with his receives and attack, and after the injury, he kept Gauzy uncomfortable with his strong defence. Sharath dismissed Simon Gauzy in an unbelievable 4-1 victory!  Sharath proved that he is a complete player. Simon Gauzy will never forget this match his entire life. Neither will Sharath. Nor will any of us Indians.
 World rankings just released yesterday for May 2015, has given Sharath’s career a major boost. Yes, 

This is his career best ranking.  I sincerely wish him a speedy recovery from the injury and hope he gets back stronger than ever before.

This is probably one of the best days in Ghosh’s table tennis career. He achieved his long fetched dream of breaking into top 100 in the world. He currently stands as World no.95!

His spectacular performance at Suzhou where he entered round of 64 beating the mighty Aruna Quadri from Nigeria earned him this spot. Aruna Quadri was awarded the ITTF Star Player of the Year award  at the Dubai 2014 ITTF Star Awards. Ghosh pulled off a comfortable 4-1 victory against Quadri who gave India a nightmare at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in August 2014.  With this, Ghosh has even greater responsibility towards himself. He has to work harder to improve from here as it gets tougher to maintain and then go up the ladder.

Ghosh in action at the World TT Championship 2015
Picture courtsey-ITTF

Good news has not yet ended.  G.Sathiyan, who has been in an incredible form since he finished his engineering last year, has climbed up 26 ranks and is now at 162. In Suzhou, he qualified for the main draw and in the first round beat Par Gerell from Sweden in a thrilling 4-1 victory to enter the round of 64. He played his heart out but lost to the current men’s singles finalist Fang Bo 1-4 in the round of 64.  
 Harmeet Desai is at 167 and the flamboyant Sanil Shetty is at no 242.

I am feeling quiet positive about minimum two men qualifying for the next year’s summer Olympics to be held at Rio. If Sharath can get a direct entry based on his world rank and a minimum of one more player should qualify from the South Asian quota, first time ever a minimum of 2 men from India will stand a chance to qualify for the same Olympics.

Coming back after a back injury which she suffered during the National Games earlier this year, Manika Batra stands as world no 142. Topping the rankings from India since the last one year now, Manika shares dual responsibility- to improve further without any more injuries and to break into the top 100. She has a bright future and a long way to go, but she needs to pull up her socks and try to be more consistent at the international arena.
Huge task ahead of Manika
Picture courtsey-ITTF

National Champion Mouma Das has jumped up 7 spots and is now at 164. Poulomi Ghatak is at 182, Ankita Das at 186 and K.Shamini who was out of international competition for the past 7 months emerged at 202.  Madhurika Pathkar also climbed up from 226 to 213.

None of the women in the recent times has entered top 100 in the world and the question is why so. Men have done it but women lag far behind as far as the rankings are concerned. As many as 6 men are playing in different leagues in Europe which has elevated their level.  The concern for women needs to be addressed by the federation and the players themselves. Maybe it’s time we get out of our comfort zones, adopt a different strategy, and change the way we approach the game.

Men have changed the face of Indian Table Tennis, and now, women need to follow suit.