"Gujarat is already a big force in Indian table tennis," said the Mumbai-born legend, who won the National crown eight times and competed for India in two Olympic Games, seven World and eight Asian championships, and two Asian Games.
"The three players - Manav, Manush, and Harmeet, are very good. They have done very well in the last season, and can win medals in singles and doubles also. "
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How many National Games did you take part in?
A: I have been in six National Games as a player, coach and commentator. I played in three National Games, the last in Bombay-Pune in 1994, was Assam team coach in Guwahati in 2007, and expert advisor to the Gujarat team in Kerala in 2015. And, I was at Ranchi 2011 as a commentator
Q: Are you excited about the National Games coming to Gujarat?
A: I am very happy that the National Games is happening again after seven years, delayed because of Covid and other reasons. The idea of having the National Games itself is good for Indian sport. Secondly, I'm also happy that it's coming to Gujarat, because, at this juncture, the State is doing very well in sports. I am sure this will help Gujarat perform better.
Q: What are your memories of playing in Gujarat?
A: I have played several National ranking and invitational tournaments in Gujarat, especially in Ahmedabad, a major TT centre. But my connection with Gujarat after my retirement as an active sportsperson has been huge. I have conducted several camps in Gujarat. With the Table Tennis Association of Baroda, we were pioneers in conducting residential camps at very affordable rates, thanks to the support of Reliance, IPCL etc. I also conducted camps for the Sports Authority of Gujarat.
Q: Where is Indian Table Tennis headed?
A: Indian Table Tennis is going up. At the Commonwealth Games 2018, our men and women did well. However, the women's performance, especially that of the exemplary Manika Batra, overshadowed that of the men. We may not have won as many medals in 2022, but the kind of medals we won were very encouraging, especially Sharath Kamal winning three Gold and a silver. Sreeja Akula winning the mixed doubles Gold for the first time is a good augury. It's a very good sign that Indians have won medals in almost every Commonwealth Games. In the 2018 Asian Games, where the competition is almost at Olympic level, we won two bronze. So it's a good sign for Indian Table Tennis.