By Nupur Dogra:
When I was asked to write on this topic, I decided to question few of my friends of their knowledge about the Indian Table Tennis team and following are some encounters with them:
Me:Â ‘Do you know anything about Indian table tennis players?’
Sahil:Â “No! (Clueless expression)… IPL is in! What are you talking about?”
Shivendra:Â “Ask me anything on Football.”
Richa:Â “No idea, my boyfriend plays good Table Tennis.”
Yash: “There was some news recently I don’t remember, “kuch Olympics ka tha” (something related to Olympics happened). Our team got selected for Olympics maybe.”
SumitÂ (replying to yash’s comment): “Select ho gai kya Sania Mirza? (Did Sania Mirza get selected?)”
After the last reply I finally realised that asking people about table tennis in a country that is so obsessed with cricket seemed to be a waste of time, so I resorted to Google, which without being biased keeps information about every sport.
Recently, table tennis players Soumyajit Gosh and Ankita Das got selected after winning the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament held in Hong Kong. Hardly anyone knew about this news around me. All the news channels have hours to telecast endless debates about the pitch, the particular short Sehwag should have opted for etc. 10 second newsflash for Olympic contenders and hour long useless debates on IPL matches.
The Table Tennis Foundation of India (TTFI) was formed in 1926 and since then is determined to promote the game in India and world. The TFFI has affiliated itself with 32 state units and 37 institutions. Currently it is headed by M.P. Ajay Singh Chautala. It has played the main role in organising various national and international events. But, even after such organisations, table tennis remains to be a sport which lacks viewership and fan following enjoyed by cricket in India. This love struck attitude towards a particular game has lead to ignorance of other games in India.
Soumyajit Ghosh, an 18 year old player from Siliguri even got a scholarship from International Table Tennis Federation for training in Peter Karlsson Academy in Sweden. He gives this scholarship the credit of winning the tournament. He was also the part of the Indian team which won bronze at the World Junior Championships in 2011. Ankita Das, a 19 year old from Siliguri has become the youngest Indian girl to qualify for Olympics. Apart from these two, India has many talented players who have brought home glories from international tournaments and to name a few; Sarath Kamal is a not only a player but an asset to Table Tennis in India. He is from Tamil Nadu and has also won Arjuna award in 2004 and has won many tournaments. Mamta Prabhu is another tennis player from Maharashtra and is said to be a very important part of Indian women’s Table Tennis team. She is ranked 356 all over the world and 4th in the Indian contingent. Shamini Kumaresan is the number one player currently in India. She leading the Indian Tennis team for women, won silver medal for India in the Commonwealth Games 2010 held in Delhi.
Despite an active organisation and excellent talented players, the game and its players have not got the much deserved limelight in the country. I am not saying that make them celebrities but, at least their contribution should be acknowledged within the country. Only when this is made possible, Indian Table Tennis team will get the much required recognition from the world.