"Indian table tennis needs Saina-like performance" - Soumyajit Ghosh Interview
Table tennis has struggled to attain popularity in India. So many players have come and gone but the sport still struggles to grab the eyeballs. But one youngster – Soumyajit Ghosh – has shown enough signs of reviving the sport in the country.
The 19-year-old feels that the onus is on the players (including himself) to help the sport attain popularity. “Look, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has been supporting (us) big time with regular exposure trips to foreign countries. I think it’s our responsibility to do something big on the world stage, which can help table tennis become more popular. The one way to do it is to win major tournaments or at least make a big impression in such tournaments. We need to do what Saina has done for Indian badminton,” the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) employee puts forth his thoughts, which seemed pretty mature for his age in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Indian table tennis’ most exciting prospect is on a roll after recently becoming the youngest men’s singles champion at the recently held 74th Senior Nationals in Raipur.
The Siliguri lad attained a new high in his fledging career, disposing off the country’s highest singles player Achanta Sharath Kamal 4-3. Undoubtedly, the big win means a lot to Soumyajit but he has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “Winning a national crown is indeed satisfying; I’m feeling good about it. But I don’t want to let any complacency creep into my game as I’m more focused on faring well in the 19th Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship, which will be held in Delhi from May 5-10.”
Seeded players are often hardly pushed, at least till the semifinals in national level tournaments. Although Soumyajit was tipped the red-hot favourite to win the crown, the upcoming Indian paddler feels that no win comes on a platter. “I may not have had too many down-to-the-wire contests but it does not mean that I had an easy path to my title win. Every match was well contested; sometimes the scoreline does not give the true picture,” he explains.
The North Bengal paddler entered the 2013 Senior Nationals with an ‘underdog’ tag, more of his own creation in a bid not to put undue pressure on him. “If I think I’m the favourite to win the national crown, I would only be putting pressure on myself. So when I came to Raipur for the Senior Nationals, I kept telling myself that I’m the underdog, which allowed me to play my natural game,” he observes.
The maiden senior national crown was not the only maiden achievement of Soumyajit in the last twelve months – he qualified for the London Olympics by beating fellow Indian and 2012 national champion Anthony Amal Raj – the guy whom he showed the championship exit door in the semifinals of the 2012 nationals – to bag the South Asian quota place. At the Olympics, the youngster won his opening round singles match against Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi 4-2 before losing to North Korea’s Kim Hyok 1-4.
Without a shadow of doubt, Soumyajit was richer with the London Olympics experience but regrets that he could not progress beyond the second round. “I think I could have done better. I played my first round match against the Brazilian at around seven in the evening and went on to play my second round match the next morning at 11 am. I was jaded after my first round match and could not give off my best in the second round,” quips the youngster who missed the absence of vastly seasoned Achanta Sharath Kamal in London. “It would have been great to have Sharath with me in London – he has so much experience and his presence would have surely helped. I really missed his absence,” he admits candidly.
Soumyajit, who lost to Sharath in the semifinals of the 2012 Senior Nationals, has immense respect for the Indian world number 71. “Sharath is a nice guy, he is always willing to help me with my game. He has done so well for India; it is not so easy to survive in the European circuit, full marks to him,” he gushes.
But his role model is fellow Indian table tennis player Subhajit Saha. “I hail from Siliguri and so does Subhajit. I have known Subhajit since the time I started honing my skills at the Siliguri Table Tennis Academy. He is special for me,” Soumyajit observed.
Sweden is one place Soumyajit has made his almost permanent home over the last few years. The bubbling young turk has been training with Swedish table tennis star Peter Karlsson for a long time and owes a lot to him. “I have been training with Peter for a long time now. My stint in Sweden has brought about an improvement in my game. My fitness has rapidly improved, so has my footwork. I spent about eight months in Sweden last year and about six months in 2011,” he revealed.
Besides being coached by Peter Karlsson in Sweden, Soumyajit is coached by Mantu Ghosh and Subrata Roy. At the PSPB, he is coached by former Indian paddler Arup Basak.
The youngster, who made a smooth transition from the junior to the senior level by reaching the men’s singles semifinals of the 2011 Senior Nationals in Kolkata, has set his sights on improving his current world ranking of 175. “Going up the ranking ladder is my main priority. I’m hoping to break into the top-100 by 2013-end,” he rounds off on an optimistic note.