Having specialized in writing football articles for Sportskeeda over the past few years I never really ventured out of my comfort zone to report on something unique, something more closely related to my home city of Kolkata. Well, having said so it is not at all about football but about table tennis, the game that I grew up hearing that my parents used to play at the district level, but personally never got interested with this very technical and tenacious sport until now, at the age of 30.
God knows what would have happened had I not stumbled upon Indranath Bhattacharyya, a colleague of mine at State Bank of India and of course, most importantly, a former national player and the current coach of Krittwika Sinha Roy, a young talent that I had the privilege of meeting and talking to at the West Bengal Table Tennis academy near Calcutta University in the old and historic lanes of North Kolkata.
When I arrived at the old building last Tuesday evening with Indranath Sir, straight from office, I observed a young girl practising tirelessly with another talented young boy that I came to learn later on was her brother. The young girl was 20-year old Krittwika Sinha Roy on full flow as an enthusiastic sportsperson working tirelessly to keep up Bengal’s rich table tennis tradition not only at the national level but in the international arena too.
The academy’s young boys and girls are being jointly trained by Indranath Bhattacharyya and Souvik Basu Roy and the tenacity of these coaches should not be forgotten either. The problem of this game not being professionalized is being felt right down to the wire. These hardworking men and women have two jobs to look after. The first and foremost is their day job at respective public sector units and then in the evening to look after their love for the game and to instil that same belief on the future generations and young Krittwika along with her brother Anirban Sinha Roy and others, by the look of it, have inherited that same belief.
Going back to Krittwika, after being introduced by coach Indranath Bhattacharyya, I found her to be extremely charming and at ease with the success that she has achieved both at the national level and at the international arena in a very short span of time. When I asked her about when she started playing the game, the answer was pretty encouraging for the sport in general and the interest that it imparts to the young generation.
“I started playing the game when I was in 2nd standard in school”, said a smiling Krittwika, looking wonderfully confident and full of enthusiasm. That, according to my calculations, was when she was just seven years of age. It was in the middle of her rigorous evening training and coaching session that I was talking to her and I felt a bit uneasy for disrupting her but Krittwika, along with other players and the two coaches, looked wonderfully welcoming and felt at ease doing two things at a time. I had so many questions to ask her and the other players but made it a priority to watch her play from close quarters as I may not have another opportunity like this again in my life.
Krittwika won the women’s singles final at the Fajr Cup in Tehran on 26th January beating Hungary’s world number 245 Rita Kertai and then teamed up with Neha Agarwal to win the doubles final beating Iran. This success in Iran, according to her, is a massive experience under difficult circumstances.
“Winning in Iran under challenging circumstances is an amazing feeling”, smiled a confident looking Krittwika who plays for Airports Authority of India at the national level. Krittwika and the other budding Indian players might not have the world’s best infrastructure to work and play on but whatever the table tennis authorities in this country and state are able to provide they make the best out of it through sheer hard work and Krittwika certainly possesses a God gifted talent to take her career to a new level.
I had the unique opportunity to watch her practice with fellow players and coach Indranath Bhttacharyya at the same time. She was particular about the instructions being thrown by her coach and was quick to correct any mistake or false shot or move. I was standing right behind Krittwika to watch her play and at first I thought that the shots that are coming to her from her opponent might get missed and hit me in the face but believe me for two hours she was sending back those fierce smashes with her own strong shots well behind her baseline without missing a single one. The young Kolkata girl has quick feet, presence of mind and a wide range of shots that accounted for three-time National Champion K.Shamini in the semi-finals of 75th Senior National Table Tennis Championships held earlier this year at the Pataliputra Sports Complex in Patna. She, disappointingly, lost the final to another talented 20-year old Ankita Das, who participated in the London Olympics.
In an interview given to the Hindu’s flagship sports magazine Sportstar, Ankita, admitting the pressure she felt playing against Krittwika, was quoted as saying, “I am thrilled. In the previous two editions, in Lucknow and Raipur, I lost in the semifinals. That time I didn’t feel the pressure. But I felt the pressure playing against Krittwika (Sinha Roy) as we are of the same age.”
Disappointments are part of a sportsman and a sportswoman’s life and believe me, having watched Krittwika play and work so hard under the watchful guidance of Indranath Bhattacharyya, she will be the next best thing in table tennis here in Bengal and who knows, in India if she keeps her feet firmly on the ground and carry on with the hard work that she has been doing so far.
Writing this article has been of particular satisfaction for me as I feel I am doing something new in my writing career for Sportskeeda. I now have the opportunity to write about something very humble, something pretty close to my home, not about the Barclays Premier League, not about Gareth Bale or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but about a young talented table tennis player from Kolkata working long hours to fulfil something that we Indians need to appreciate in the long run for the betterment of our Olympic sporting aspirations.