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I think Table Tennis has come quite a distance since I was playing. And logically so, since we are improving at every level. Exposure has a lot to do with it as well. Players now are getting a lot more exposure than we used to, during, my playing days. At just twenty-three, twenty-four, these players can get a volume of exposure that I would have gotten much later. What I was learning over a period of fifteen years, these kids are learning that within five years. There is a better platform for the players to grow as well. So we have come a long way regarding exposure, experience, and support from the government. Of course, we have to give credit to the players as well. They are the ones driving this change. Table Tennis is a global sport, played across the world by several nations. Take a look at the world map. Every country you see is a member of the International Table Tennis Federation. That is how big the appeal of this sport is. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes within the sport itself. Exposure is a big part of these changes. Nowadays, you can see every match that is played, every player that is playing, and every new technique there is on display. You can go on various websites, on youtube, on ITTF TV and watch the game. It is easily accessible. That has helped the Indian players stay in touch with their overseas opponents. They are developing their game far more quickly now and adapting to new techniques. The game has advanced, and India has been able to keep in touch with it. Moreover, all these advancements have helped fans stay in touch with the game. Table Tennis is a fantastic sport. The speed at which the games are played, coupled with some of the shots on display make TT a very crowd-friendly game. A huge following, coupled with, easy access to the games has helped the sport grow in India. What has helped it even further, is the Ultimate Table Tennis League.
A League-styled RevolutionWhat Ultimate Table Tennis has done is bring some really good foreign players to India. They bring with them, a different aspect of the sport. Of course, the top-notch India players have rubbed shoulders with them in foreign leagues but they have been few in number. For many of the other players, UTT provides a brilliant exposure to the international side of the game. The Indian paddlers themselves have improved the quality of their game over the past years. However, being around some of these foreign players, seeing them train, observing their work ethic, and finally watching them play; all this comes as an additional premium. Something that helps the Indian paddlers get even better. Also read: Is India on the cusp of a Table Tennis revolution? Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Ultimate Table Tennis is the level of competition. In UTT, budding Indian paddlers come up against some of the best in the world. Seeing them practice and playing against them are two distinct aspects. A young player can learn to play like his or her idol by watching them in action. However, one can only learn to beat them once they are on the other side of the table. To sum it up, Ultimate Table Tenis is the revolution Table Tennis needed. On the table, the Indian paddlers are competing with some of the best in the world. Moreover, beyond the table, they are engaging themselves with fans in a very positive atmosphere.
Passion is ParamountThe overwhelming euphoria associated with Table Tennis now, comes with the Ultimate Table Tennis League. Major tournaments, such as the Commonwealth Games, also bring about the same feelings towards the sport. However, much of this elation dies down when the tournament is over. Things slowly start turning back to normal. In that sense, not much has changed. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it is not euphoria or fanfare that kicks on a player, it is the passion for the sport. It was the same with the players of the previous era as it is for the players of today. Keeping that in mind, I would say that passion for the sport is far more important to a player than just skill. This is not just for Table Tennis. For any sport, passion is paramount. Once you have that connection with the sport, everything else can be acquired. However, if you lack passion, chances are you will never excel. I have coached players like Sathiyan Gnansekaran, Anthony Amalraj, and for a brief period, Sharath Kamal. I have always found that passion is what has driven them to do great things, not just raw skill. Take Sathiyan Gnanaskeran for example. Sathiyan was always a very passionate player. You could see his love for the game when he was training. He worked hard on his skills and on his discipline. He always had a calm demeanour about him, always improving himself without being too aggressive. This was six years back. Since then, he has moved a long way. Sathiyan's hunger for success is the reason he is amongst some of the best players in the world. He has changed his game as well and adjusted to a much more aggressive style of play. Sathiyan wasted no time in doing what he was passionate about. As a result of his determination, he became the first-ever Indian to win two European Pro-Tour Titles. However, one thing that has remained constant over all these years is his passion for the sport. You can see the same determination in him when he walks up to a table now, as he showed years ago. I expect big things of him in the near future.
India's Marvelous YearEarlier this year, the government hosted the first-ever Kheo India School Games. The Games were based on an Olympic template and sixteen disciplines were chosen for youngsters to participate in. Table Tennis was not on the list. In normal circumstances that would have hurt the sport a lot. Luckily, 2018 has been one of the best years for TT in India. India's performance at the Commonwealth Games was the push Table Tennis needed. The Indian paddlers really showed the sport in a good light. Suddenly, the belief came back that maybe India can do something remarkable in Table Tennis. Of course, Commonwealth Games was not the only remarkable thing to happen to India this year. The paddlers' performance at the World Championships gave further hope that Table Tennis is not a lost cause. Add to that individual performances and achievements of some of the paddlers this year and you will find that, indeed, 2018 was one of the best years for the sport in India. As a result of the successes overseas, there has been an upsurge in the number of people wanting to get into the sport. Youngsters are looking at Table Tennis in a completely different light. It is not just a sport for fun anymore. Indeed, it has become something via which you can gain acclaim both domestically and internationally. Coming back to my original point of Khelo India. The sport was overlooked by the government for the first-ever games. However, due to the immense popularity that Table Tennis has accumulated in the last six months, the sport is back in the government's plan. It has become somewhat of a priority sport for India, heading into the next few years.
Looking to the FutureThe upcoming years are crucial for the sport. What we did at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was remarkable but that victory will amount to little if we do not carry this type of form forward. The Asian Games and the Olympic Games are up next, with World Championships and ITTF Tours in between. Hopefully, we can continue what has been a great year so far, and help Table Tennis progress even further. This is what I envisage for the future of TT. However, coming back to a personal level, I would say that sports are about passion and expression. They bring about a more holistic development to a person's life. As a coach, who deals with students every day, I would say that enjoy whatever sport you are playing; whether it is Table Tennis or anything else. Be passionate, hone your skills, and you will be successful.