Saturday, March 14, 2015


The Indian Table Tennis fraternity was eagerly waiting for the 28th Asia Cup to start. Some were excited to watch Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Jun Mizutani and others were waiting to watch Ai Fukuhara and Liu Shiwen( to name a few). Little did they know that they would all end up talking about their own hero- Achanta Sharath Kamal.

The papers said that the Indians had little to offer in this tournament, judging the players only on the basis of the world rankings. But then we all know that rankings are not really a true signifier of the strength and might of a player.

Sharath Kamal, my favourite sportsperson, who never disappoints, especially on home soil and who always keeps the tricolour flying high, knew that he was ready for the battle. His training for this tournament was different; he worked on his physical fitness for a week in Dusseldorf, and then went to Denmark (where there are several Asian players to practice with). Here in Jaipur, he looked well prepared, all set to go, to show the world who he really is and that no one can ever be compared to him.  

And he did the unexpected. Critics- SILENCED!

The SMS stadium at Jaipur came to life on 13th March 2015. Achanta Sharath Kamal, the world no 49, shook the world by two back to back wins. He not only beat World no. 8 Chuan Chin Yuan 3-1 but also beat the world’s best defencer- Joo SaeHyuk,the current world no 16, in a thrilling 3-2 encounter.

And that is why he is called the ‘living legend’ of Indian table tennis.

Sharath in his interview with the ITTF revealed that his association with his teammate Panagiotis Gionis from Greece who is a defender himself is the secret behind his improved play against defenders. He readily explained that Gionis has been telling his tactics on how to play against defenders and what they don’t like. Sharath made Joo uncomfortable by skilfully changing the lengths of serves and topspins. Joo SaeHyuk is very clever, he breaks the rhythm of your play but today, Sharath was better prepared. The decider set was such a nail biting run. Trailing 2-7, Sharath kept his belief strong bringing the game closer to 8-9. The next rally was the longest in the entire match with Sharath hitting 11 topspins to win the point and then levelling the match to 9-9. The unforced error by Joo at 10-9 got the crowd cheering their lungs out. But Joo levelled it at 10-10. Keeping in mid his tactics at 11-11, Sharath served short at Joo’s backhand and a quick topspin straight to his forehand fetched him the 3rd match point. Joo, who clearly looked restless and disturbed, gave up the match by missing his forehand attack from backhand corner and giving Sharath the biggest win of his career so far.

Clearly it was one of the biggest and happiest days of his life.  One Friday- the 13th he will always cherish.

After defeating Joo SaeHyuk

Quiet interesting to note here is the fact that the TTFI had denied to send Sharath’s entry for this tournament in the first place. Later he qualified for the tournament on the basis of his World Rank. Failing to take part in the National Championship held at Pondicherry in this year, Sharath was overlooked by the TTFI for this prestigious tournament. Sharath had also expressed his disappointment in one of the leading National dailies explaining that he had actually planned to play the Senior Nationals but unfortunately one of the players in his team got injured and thus the club was totally dependent on him to play the quarterfinals of the European Champions League.Normally the club understands his commitments with the National federation for domestic and international tournaments which are important to him and the country but this time due to this unique reason, he had to miss the National Championship to play for the club.

The TTFI had also expressed their displeasure at Sharath not playing the National Championships and threatened to take strict action against players who play in club leagues abroad and fail to take part in the National tournaments.

There is no greater joy than winning for your own country. Sometimes we just fail to understand that.

Sharath Kamal is someone who has brought Indian Table Tennis to new heights. His achievements are unprecedented in Indian table tennis history, and I feel that the decisions he has made should be well respected. Time and again he has proved his mettle only by performing better than before. The last thing to do would be to discourage him by unnecessary controversies and stories blown out of proportion.

He is an asset to the Nation. He does his job well, and we must respond back in the same way. His contributions to the game deservedly command accolades, and he will be well remembered for them in the annals of Indian table tennis history.

His facebook page was filled with congratulatory messages from all over India. It only speaks of the reach and influence of a man whose achievements say everything.

This is Sharath Kamal. And the man is unstoppable. And a biased me is only waiting for him to go to Rio.