Since the past decade, Indian table tennis has been making all the right noises performance-wise and there are enough signs to suggest that Indian table tennis is in good health – the country currently has seen an upsurge after witnessing Manika Batra and Co.’s historic showing at the Commonwealth Games. Since then, the country’s performances at World and Asian meets have been way beyond what anybody expected, despite not having a coach for most of it.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, it seems that the table tennis contingent is in trouble as well as their training is reportedly hindered due to the absence of a head coach. The entire contingent has taken to practicing individually under different mentors which, according to the players themselves, is inadvisable ahead of a major multi-sport tournament.
Leading players like Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan have already expressed their frustration over the delay in the coach’s appointment. “As individuals, we have our team of coaches, but as a team, we need a coach. It is a matter of concern,” Sharath was quoted as saying, according to a PTI report.
The Indian contingent has been left without a coach since last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta. It was back in March that the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) had short-listed Canadian Dejan Papic but it was only in July that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sent him the contract. Then, Papic took the time to sign the contract owing to administrative issues and his arrival has further kept on delaying. “He was travelling, and probably that is why the delay in signing the contract. But now he has, and he should be in India early next month,” TTFI secretary MP Singh had said in July.
There has been quite a considerable delay not just in the appointment of Papic, foreign coach of the senior Indian table tennis teams (men & women), but also as to when he will officially join the team. India has been hunting for a coach since Massimo Costantini left the post after the Asian Games 2018. They reached out to Dejan Papic and Jorg Bitzigeio. While Papic couldn’t the side because of a surgery, Bitzigeio is currently embroiled in a court case after the USA team refused to accept his resignation.
The men’s team, led by Kamal and young rising paddler G Sathiyan, will be traveling to Dusseldorf, Germany for training later this month. They will be looking to qualify for Olympics 2020 at the Olympic qualifier tournament in Portugal, which will be held from January 22 to 26.