Lack of national pride or insufficient government support? Analyzing why India can't produce successful Olympic table tennis stars

India is a nation of 1.2 billion people and we could only produce one Sharath Kamal so far

You will find a table in clubs, hotels, and resorts where people hit a few shots and that is how table tennis lives at the peripherals of the sporting culture in our country. Although the fastest game in the Olympics has gained popularity in India over the years, it is still not a medal-winning sport for us.

Why is it so? Is there something wrong with how it is managed? Is it not interesting enough?

The third cannot be true. There is nothing that table tennis lacks: It is stylish, it has got speed, intelligence, drama, aggression and has got all those nail-biting moments. Also, the younger generation of India is into this sport in various parts of the country. As we take a look into the local clubs, we find children playing with all the enthusiasm and vigor. After school hours, they rush to their respective coaching centre to train under their coaches.

If we dig deeper, we see that the Indian professional paddlers are leaving the country to hone their skills. Take the example of Soumyajit Ghosh and Achanta Sharath Kamal. Both train in Europe and participate in the European club leagues. They are the only two Indian players in the top 100 with a rank of 71 and 73 respectively. The third best rank is a lowly 172.

What is there in Sweden and Germany or for that matter China that makes Indian players leave India to polish their strokes and other skills? What is stopping us from achieving all that China has achieved in table tennis?

Table tennis is one of the most beautiful and enthralling sports that has ever been created. There is no reason why India cannot produce successful Olympic paddlers. But to do so, it has to get rid of the old-world views and work towards replicating the system in place by China and Germany. To produce a Timo Boll or a Ma Long, we need to set greater goals, so that one day even the Indian national table tennis team can move from 16 to top five in the world rankings.

Table tennis needs to go a long way. In the first place, the sport has to get rid of the mindset that it does not pay or help one get a job. It is played to learn the greater lessons of life and not solely for monetary benefits.When a child is born in China, the sport which the child will pursue, be it a power sport or a racquet sport is decided during his infant years. He is sent to coaching camps and all throughout the years, he learns one simple thing - that when he is 18, he should be an Olympic medallist for his country. The entire country works together as one whole to build a better tomorrow. Sadly, that's not the case for us.

For the thousands of upcoming paddlers who take it as a hobby amidst the stack and pile of books, our goals are not centred around national pride and rather are just self-centric.

A league needed to establish table tennis as a main sport in India

Everyone wondered whether table tennis needs a league to gain popularity among the Indian audience? Also, if the same will be beneficial for the future of the sport?

The overwhelming success of kabaddi have brought the same to the limelight and the debate began sometime last year whether an Indian Table Tennis League should be launched. Finally, TTFI and the officials of 11EVEN Sports, the company formed to run the league, announced that the inaugural edition of the world’s first professional franchise-based Table Tennis League in India, dates of which were to be announced in the Olympic year.

As of now, the league will have eight teams battling out for the lucrative Rs. 1 crore prize money. Besides that, the teams will have a foreign male and female player each as well as an Indian in both categories.

Table tennis, a sport with intense drama, needs media attention and a touch glamour. It definitely does need a greater viewership in order to gain popularity and to come to the fore. Not long ago, Pro Kabaddi became the second-most viewed tournament on Indian television after the Indian Premier League. And not just the viewership increased. A large number of kabaddi clubs in India came into existence and more and more youngsters started taking up the sport.

With such a competition, people get a peek into the players' personal life and the possibility of help pouring out from all quarters increases. Commercializing the sport will not only make it popular, but more and more people will take up the sport professionally. The razzmatazz of the stars who own the team will strike a chord with the sports-loving audience of the nation. With the success of the kabaddi, badminton and football in India, it won't be wrong to assume that a league is needed at the earliest to increase the popularity of table tennis.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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