Indian paddlers have a bright chance of winning medals at Asian Table Tennis Championships — Harmeet Desai
Indian table tennis player Harmeet Desai expressed his excitement ahead of the Asian TT Championship in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge
India has a bright chance of winning a medal in the Asian Table Tennis Championship for the first time as China decides to give this tournament a miss. All eyes are going to be on Indian table tennis players as they are in Doha to compete in the 25th edition of the IITF Asian Table Tennis Championship. All the players are excited as this is the first major tournament after the Tokyo Olympics.
Indian table tennis player Harmeet Desai is one of them who will be competing in this competition for the sixth time and has expressed his excitement ahead of the tournament in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
"Really excited to play the Asian championship. It is my sixth Asian Championship now. So, yes I am really looking forward to it and also will be playing an official tournament after such a long time which is almost after one and half to two years. So, I am really looking forward to it and it's really exciting," Harmeet Desai said.
The world number 73 will be competing in multiple events like men's team, men's doubles and mixed doubles but that is something that the 28-year-old has done before and is all set to give his best for the country as he will be in the august company of seasoned Achanta Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan.
"There is no added responsibility on my shoulders because also in the last few years when I played the Asian Championships before in all the five editions I have played the men's doubles, men's team, men's singles, men's team doubles and mixed doubles. So, this won't be anything new and I will try to give my best like I have always done and I hope that this time we can win a medal in the Asian Championship," stressed Desai.
The Indian team for the ITTF Asian TT championship has a perfect blend of youth and experience with veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal, experienced G Sathiyan and youngster Manav Thakkar along with Harmeet Desai in the men's team. With the presence of all these paddlers, India has a good chance of winning a medal for the very first time. According to Harmeet Desai, their form also in the recent past augurs well for them.
"Yes, we have quite a balanced team and also we have a combination of youth and seniors. So, I think going to the championship will be a very good chance for us to win a medal for the very first time. So, I think we have a pretty good team to upset anybody on a given day. I think that we have done that in the recent past and this time also if we can play well on a particular day we can definitely do it."
Indian Table tennis players have been consistently performing well since 2018 in big events like topping the TT medals table in Commonwealth Games 2018 with 8 medals including 3 gold. In Asian Games 2018 India secured its first ever medal as the men's team won a bronze medal by defeating Japan in the quarterfinal.
"Yes, Indian table tennis players have done really well in the past be it Olympics, Commonwealth Games in 2018, Asian Games 2018, Commonwealth Championship in 2019. So, all the big events Indian table tennis players have done well in the recent past and I think we can do better this time. We all have been preparing well. We all are playing well. All the players have improved their world ranking in the recent past. So, I think we are one of the teams that can cause big upsets. Definitely, I think we have a very good chance to come back with a medal," he explained.
India is seeded fourth in the men's division and will face Iran in the Championship Division first round which is effectively quarterfinals and if they win they will face the winner of Hong Kong versus Korea in the semifinals. Meanwhile, the women's team placed in the first division has been in the same group as Jordan and Nepal.
"We have a realistic chance to win a medal. On a given day like I said before, if we all play well together as a team then we can certainly create upset and in the past we have beaten teams like Japan. Right now we have a very good world ranking as four players are in the top-100 from the Indian team. So, I think we are a team that can beat anybody and we can win a medal and I hope we can come back with a medal," said an optimistic Desai.
The Indian men's team is expected to perform better than the Asian Table tennis championship 2019 with a fifth-place finish and come up with a medal for the very first time. But the women's team comprising Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akula, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee is not looking as formidable as Commonwealth Games champion Manika Batra is not a part of the team.
The absence of powerhouse China which won all the gold medals in all the seven categories of the last edition in 2019 played in Yogyakarta, Indonesia decided to give this tournament a miss to compete in their National Games.