Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Table Tennis

Manika Batra uses the long pimple rubber in table tennis: Know why?

Having perfected the art of playing with the long pimple rubber, Manika Batra's touch to the game has fetched her accolades galore and she has the medals to prove it.

Manika Batra uses the long pimple rubber in table tennis: Know why?

Manika Batra, Image Source: AFP


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 20 July 2021 4:49 AM GMT

Becoming an overnight sensation is a thing which Manika Batra is comfortably familiar with. Hailing from Delhi, this chirpy 26-year-old ensured that table tennis also gets its fair share of recognition in a cricket-chanting nation when she won 4 medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Dubbed as the 'Golden Girl' - Batra's phenomenal run at Gold Coast where she picked up two gold medals, one silver and a bronze, has made her the poster girl of Indian table tennis.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee took charge of every match with astonishing grip and steamrolled past the likes of Singapore's 3-time Olympic medallist Tianwei Feng, Zhou Yihan and veteran player Yu Mengyu to create history. She won a gold in the women's singles, a gold in the women's team event, a silver with Mouma Das in doubles and finally, a treasured bronze with G. Sathiyan in the mixed doubles.

Making the world sit up and take notice, this Maria Sharapova admirer's unique playing style soon became the talking point. Coached for most of her life by former player Sandeep Gupta, Batra switched to the long pimple rubber at the age of 8 upon the advice of Gupta, who had similarly trained 2008 Beijing Olympics women's singles representative Neha Aggarwal.

Having booked a berth in the Tokyo Olympics earlier in March at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers, Batra's second Olympic outing seems hopeful and promising as many eyes will be on this lanky table tennis star.

Manika Batra's hoodwinking tactics

Manika Batra at the 2018 CWG, Image Source: AFP

When it comes to Manika Batra, the 26-year-old is never lost in an Hamletian debate to hoodwink her opponent or not. The answer is simple - it's always a yes. Having perfected the art of playing with the long pimple variety of rubber, Manika Batra's touch to the game has fetched her accolades galore and she has the medals to prove it.

During the finals of the women's singles match against Singapore's Yu Mengyu, Batra left her opponent perfectly confused on some instances. Mixing up her game with masterful precision, Batra produced shots that were jaw-droppingly difficult to perfect. Using the 'deceptive rubber' or 'trick rubber' as many call it, Manika Batra has shaped herself up as a well-rounded player, capable of hoodwinking her opponents into committing errors and practically, awarding her the point.

It is with this bamboozling style of table tennis did Batra script her success story. Using the long pimple bats can prove to produce a devilish effect during the course of a match. Long pimple or anti-rubber, owing to its capability to absorb the opponent's spin and quite literally turn it around - backspin switches to topspin and the sidespin retorts as a flat, plays an instrumental role in changing the pace, spin, length of a ball.

Speaking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, the newly-appointed Chief National Coach of Table Tennis India, Soumyadeep Roy observed, "Manika Batra has really mastered the art of using the long pimple over the years. She has developed her game really well. She can challenge the big players with her forehand topspin as well. Just because she has worked on the other aspects of the game, she is able to fully reap the benefits of using this rubber," he expressed.

However, using the long pimple isn't the only trick that Manika Batra has up her sleeve. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics where Manika will be participating in the women's singles and the mixed doubles events, Roy appreciatively notes, "The strong point of Manika's game is her variety. If she is playing 11 points, she has the capability to play each of the points differently using her rubber which makes it difficult for the opponent's to understand. She can slow down her opponent and in the very next moment, change the face of her rubber and become attacking."

Further, Soumyadeep Roy asserts, "The big positive about Manika is that using the long pimple isn't her only strongpoint. She has grown equally strong in other areas and has the ability to bring variety to her game. There is nothing constant about her game as she adapts with every point - causing an upset in the rhythm of the opponent and confusing them with this kind of unpredictability in her shots. She has the capability to play with the normal rubber and immediately mix it up with the pimpled side, ensuring the change is constant in her game.

The tale of the long pimple rubber

Manika Batra, Image Source: AFP

Although the popular opinion goes that too much analysis can disturb the magic of things - in sports, the beauty deepens the more you analyse. With the case of the pimple rubber, the story is equally deceptive and hence, the scope for creating magic is more. And Manika Batra is quite the magician at work when she plays - carefully mixing up shots and leaving the opponent perplexed and confused.

The Arjuna awardee, Roy points out, "It's a very deceptive rubber to understand. You can slow the game. You can change the pace. You can change the length of the ball, you can change the spin of the ball - this is not possible with a normal inverted rubber. If somebody is playing with heavy speed, it's possible to counter it and slow the game down completely. If somebody is using heavy spin, it's possible to change the spin of the ball, generating anti-spin," Roy breaks down the nitty-gritties.

Not used on the global platform so much, the long pimple is still in use at the domestic stages. However, finding success with it is difficult. "Not many people use this kind of rubber internationally. But domestically, a lot of players have been using this but they haven't achieved this level (like Manika) of success in it. For example, if your opponent knows how to play against this kind of rubber, it will become easy for them. Many players become very dependent on the pimpled rubber and think that they will score the maximum points by virtue of that. But, no, that's not the case," Roy notes.

Just like every wand is not suited for every wizard, the long pimple variety shares a similar fate. The only trick to wielding this wand is to truly understand spin, put in a lot of hours of practice, play with precision, understand the tactics of the opponent and accordingly use the rubber to its effect, as Roy suggests. Adjusting to the long pimple isn't an overnight trick - it requires years to perfect it and Manika Batra has achieved it. A minor error in perfection will lead to the production of a lot of negative mistakes and the ball won't land in the desired way, pushing the opportunity towards the opponent's end.

Finally, Roy concludes by saying, "I believe Manika Batra is very special," and you can almost hear the tinge of pride in his voice as he says this. One can't help but resonate with this emotion as well - Batra has revolutionized the face of Indian table tennis and mastered a difficult art in the process and there are countless medals waiting to be won by her, in the near future.

Next Story