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Tokyo Olympics 2020: How the absence of a top-level coach could hurt Indian table tennis

The Indian table tennis team have been left without a coach since last year's Asian Games.

Tokyo Olympics 2020: How the absence of a top-level coach could hurt Indian table tennis


Updated: 25 July 2021 6:07 AM GMT

The Indian table tennis team have been handed yet another roadblock in their quest to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympic games. New coach Dejan Papic, who was on-boarded back in July this year, will reportedly take another two months to recover from his knee surgery and thus cannot take charge as yet.

As reported by PTI, Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) secretary MP Singh said that the federation was unaware of the Croatian's health

"Papic will take another two months to recover. Players are losing crucial time and we realise that but we got to know about his knee surgery much later after the appointment process was completed," MP Singh said.

"We have approached a few coaches to take charge of the national squad. We are awaiting their response," he added.

The Indian table tennis team have been left without a coach since last year's Asian Games. It was back in March that the TTFI had short-listed Papic but it was only in July that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sent him the contract. Then, Papic took time to sign the contract owing to administrative issues and now his arrival has been further delayed.

How the absence of a top-level coach could hurt India

Table tennis in India has been on the rise after witnessing Manika Batra and Co.'s historic showing at the Commonwealth Games. Since then, India's performances at World and Asian meets have been way beyond what anybody expected, despite not having a coach for most of it.


At the recently concluded Asian Championships, the Indian men's team finished fifth, their best ever finish at the continental level. At the same tournament, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran became only the second Indian man to make it as far as the quarters in the individual event before losing to the current World No. 4. Clearly, the success at Commonwealth Games was not a one-off and everyone has taken note of that.

There was a time when the likes of China, Japan, Singapore, Korea would not bat an eyelid when facing India. But now, even the table tennis powerhouses of the world are considering the likes of Manika, Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal as potential threats.

Now, each one of India's matches are being watched and re watched, each one of the Indian paddlers are being analyzed and dissected. They are being put under the scanner, their weaknesses and strengths are being identified and counter-tactics are being worked out.

In such times, the presence of a top-level coach can give the Indian players that extra edge. The current scenario has led to loss of crucial time for the players, who have had to prepare on their own for next year's Olympics.

Last year, after the Commonwealth Games, every paddler in the Indian contingent had heaped praise on then coach Massimo Costantini. They had stressed on how the Italian had improved their gameplay, worked on variations and most importantly, invoked them to try new things. Without an experienced coach, the players might be left lacking in confidence.

"More than me, the younger crop has been badly affected by the lack of a national coach. I train outside India at times and have my own coach too (S Raman) but they have been left direction-less as there are no camps taking place in the country. Too much time has been lost," Sathiyan, India's highest-ranked player at 30, was quoted by PTI.

As the reports suggest, the TTFI are keen to bring in at least an interim coach and have narrowed down German coach Jorg Bitzegaio, who is currently with the USA team.

With the Olympics fast approaching and the qualification meets getting underway, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Even if Bitzegaio is unable to join the Indian team, the federation should look at other options and finalize a proper full-time coach.

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