LUCK Despite the torrential downpour that hit Lucknow on Saturday, tucked away at Babu Banarasi Das UP Badminton Academy, under a leaking covered stadium roof, the table tennis matches raged amid chants and chaos.
One of the special guests at this tournament, Kamlesh Mehta, former captain of the Indian table tennis team and the government-appointed national observer for table tennis (TT), took some time off to talk to HT about the future of the sport and how it has changed since its active playing days. Mehta led the Indian TT team from 1982 to 1989 and was the highest ranked Indian player in Asia and the Commonwealth Games.
According to Mehta, table tennis is not only attractive as a serious competitive sport, but also as a leisure activity. This is because the infrastructure or requirements for TT are not as extensive or demanding as many other sports. He said that while talented TT players used to drop out or get lost during the transition from school-level to national-level table tennis, the link to the university-level TT scene has now become stronger.
Moreover, he also believes that media coverage of local sports talent goes a long way in encouraging young athletes to take it up as a career. We see a lot of coverage of international matches, tournaments and athletes, but the local events are somehow ignored. If you want Indian players to do well then you have to start at the local level, only then it will attract more youngsters. In addition, we have a social responsibility to attract the energy of young people to sports, because it is a way to channel energy into constructive activities, rather than taking a wrong path, Mehta said.
While all sports have undergone a transformation in recent decades, Mehta believes that table tennis has undergone the most changes. The only two things that haven’t changed in TT are table size and net size. The color of the table, the floor, the size of the ball and the material, everything has changed in TT since my time, the scoring and match pattern, as well as the technique, he emphasized. However, the best change, according to him, is that the game has become much more professional than before. He believes the most exciting thing is ex-players coming back as coaches, and the experience and knowledge they have to share is invaluable. Their wisdom is now being used to create national stars in the sport.
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