Soumyajit Ghosh: Born in a small North Bengal town, India's No. 1 paddler is taking the sport to the next level

The face of Indian Table Tennis in the last few years
Shuvro Ghoshal

Soumyajit Ghosh could not have asked for more before Rio Olympics 2016 than the remarkable upswing in his ranking which saw him jump 20 places to be 65th in the world.

Not only that, the table tennis star from Siliguri upstaged Achanta Sharath Kamal to become India's top-ranked paddler.

After a couple of match-winning performances in the South Asian Games and World Table Tennis Championships, the two-time national champion followed it up with a splendid performance at the recently-concluded Asian Cup in Dubai.

Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, he says, "I have been performing consistently for the past few months. I have been defeating higher-ranked players on a regular basis. Recently, I beat Korea's top-ranked paddler Jung Youngsik at the Asian Cup which is a big thing."

But then he knows that rankings don't always signify the might of a player.

"I am happy that I managed to improve my world ranking. I take it as more of a responsibility to perform better and not disappoint the people of the country," adds a highly motivated Soumyajit.

A man so humble and down to earth in his speech

Time and again the two-time national champion, who was also the youngest Indian to feature in the 2012 Olympics has proved his mettle only by performing better than before.

"Olympics is very special for every athlete. I was 19 when I went to London. In the past few years, I have improved on a lot of areas and would like to better my performance, thus finishing in the top 16," says the 23-year-old whose popularity in table tennis circles seems to be intact.

Is it going to be better from here?

Siliguri is undoubtedly the table tennis capital of India. The town has been home to all the famous paddlers of the country.

"In Siliguri, if you compare the popularity of cricket and table tennis, don't be surprised if cricket comes a close second," says Soumyajit.

When asked on how he mastered the art of the game, the town's most-loved boy adds, "I started playing when I was 5. From smashing my way to the under-12 title to clinching the under-14, under-21, and senior title, it has been quite a journey for me. But there are many things left for me to achieve."

Confident and unnerving in his ambitions

There is still a huge gulf between our system and the Chinese system in this sport. Although he is doing well in international tournaments, the gap between China and India still exists.

The Bharat Petroleum employee points out, "Table tennis has the infrastructure in our country and has improved in so many ways, the country hasn't been able to keep pace with the table tennis dominated countries in certain aspects."

"We have no history, we have no medals in World Championships. I personally feel the lack of knowledge is one of the reasons behind this," he says.

When Soumyajit was 16, he went to Sweden for the first time and since then he has regularly been to Falkenberg on the western coast of the country to train under Peter Karlsson, a former European and World Champion.

This time, four Indian paddlers (Soumyajit Ghosh, Achanta Sharath Kamala, Manika Batra, and Mouma Das) have booked Rio 2016 berths.

The North Bengal paddler who has been helping Indian table tennis team reach new heights is excited at the prospect of a full team representing India in the Games for the first time ever.

"This is happening for the first time and it is a big advantage for us. I am highly motivated since Sharath (Kamal) will be going with me. I respect him and feel his experience can help us better our performance in the competition," he explains.

Rio 2016 is his biggest focus area from here on

He is the role model the youth of Silliguri are trying to emulate

But certainly the chances of grabbing a medal is not on the higher side.

"The combination is great this year. You never know, if we can handle the pressure, we can beat any opponent during the Games," he says.

The World No. 65 adds, "We all know what Sharath is capable of. He has a record of shocking higher-ranked opponents in big matches. Not long ago, I defeated the World No. 14 and 24. Mouma has beaten the World No. 9 once. Manika is in red-hot form. Anything can happen at Rio 2016."

There is no greater joy than winning for your own country. "Of course, we are not favorites to win a medal," he signs off.

Soumyajit is an asset to the nation. He does his job well and his contribution to Indian table tennis deservedly command accolades.

Edited by Staff Editor


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