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Asian Games 2018

The old and the new: Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra's partnership is a joy to behold

The old and the new: Sharath Kamal and Manika Batras partnership is a joy to behold
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Published: 29 Aug 2018 12:32 PM GMT
When Manika Batra was 11 years old, Achanta Sharath Kamal put in the performance of his life to bag the Singles gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The tournament also saw him win the Gold with the men's team. In 2007, Sharath Kamal was the first Indian to win the Pyongyang invitational. The peak of the man who would go on to become the flagbearer of Indian table tennis had just begun. His future Doubles partner at the 2018 Asian Games, had still not decided how she wanted her life to pan out. All she knew was that she wished for glory. 2006 was also the year that a 16-year old Saina Nehwal did the impossible for Indian Badminton at the Commonwealth Games. For Manika, success meant replicating the pride, honour and the glory that comes with winning a Gold medal for the country. Cut to 2018. We have India's senior Table Tennis player- a man that has been such a constant face in India's tryst with the sport that it hurts to imagine a time when he would decide to hang up his boots, pairing up with a 23-year old whose exploits so far can only be described as wonderous. Manika's regular Mixed Doubles partner is
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran
, but this current pair has broken barriers and silenced critics. The 13-year age gap between Manika and Sharath Kamal reduces to almost nothing when you watch them play. The way they complement each other, the way they act like a ferocious unit against top opponents- it really cannot be easy. For one thing, Table Tennis requires good reflexes and some brilliant hand-eye coordination. These are the two things that Sharath Kamal has based his career on. For Manika Batra to match that up, she must be credited with a quick penchant for learning among other things. India's newest and oldest Table Tennis stars have now teamed up to win the Bronze in the Mixed Team event at the Asian Games 2018. What's more, they even defeated a third-seeded pair from South Korea. Till a few years back, if someone had as much as dared suggest that India would one day make a mark on the Table, the remark would be considered naive. It is a sign of how far the sport has come that, in a tournament where India had never managed to excel in Table Tennis, the squad ensured not one but two medals in the Jakarta Games. Both victories had some contribution by the everlasting and indomitable Sharath Kamal. The experience and raw talent- that is what the pair of Sharath and Manika exemplifies. Maybe the bastion of Table Tennis has changed hands. Perhaps, it's now up to Manika Batra to carry forward the legacy of the game. This is a fact that Sharath agrees with. "In 2004, I had said we need superstars to promote table tennis in India," Sharath says in an interview to DNA after the brilliant showing of the Indian team in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. "I had also said that I hope I was the one. But, Manika is bigger than me, I would guess because I couldn't make the sport as famous as she has been able to. So, maybe we need more Manika Batras than Sharath Kamals." Maybe he's right. Or perhaps not. Maybe its the presence of both of them, working together seamlessly as a team, which has done the trick for Indian Table Tennis. The young and the old emerging as powerhouses; the senior guiding the woman who is a superstar right at the beginning of her career "I have continued to work in the same way in the last seven-eight years and now I am reaping the benefits of it," said Sharath Kamal to Firstpost.  We hope he keeps playing for a long time to come.
Also read: How Manika Batra turned out to be a giant-killer this year
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