CHENNAI: Since Peter Engel’s departure, following the 2014 Asian Games in early October, Indian paddlers have been without a foreign national coach. With the 2016 Olympic Games nearing, the next step seemed shrouded in uncertainty; not anymore. The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has decided to focus its energies on getting two foreign coaches instead — one for juniors, another for youth and seniors.
Speaking to Express, TTFI secretary-general Dhanraj Choudhary elaborated on this new plan, saying it wouldn’t be prudent to splurge on an under-utilised foreign national coach because Olympic hopefuls mostly play abroad. He also added that TTFI has shortlisted some countries where they could hold combined practice, like Japan. “There is no point in getting a foreign coach for senior men; they play in European leagues. Instead, we are inviting two coaches from China to focus on juniors, youth and seniors. They will initially be on contract for one year, which can be extended if their inputs produce satisfactory results,” Dhanraj said.
Former World No 71 and national selector Kamlesh Mehta expanded on the theory, revealing the redirection of resources would benefit national camps. “It’s very expensive, and since the TTFI is working under budgetary constraints, the reasoning is valid. Hiring two separate coaches will cost significantly less and more funds will be available for camps and equipment,” the eight-time national champion opined.
Even so, the highest-ranked Indian player, A Sharath Kamal, feels a move based on budget problems should not become a blueprint for the future. He backs the TTFI’s decision, but isn’t convinced of its broad-mindedness. “This move could establish an unhealthy precedent — failing to look at the big picture. For example, Brazil were ranked below us when I began competing in 2002. Due to a sustained approach in utilising one coach for everyone, they have gradually passed us by. Meanwhile, we’ve had eight coaches in that time frame,” the World No 32 declared.
Women’s player Mouma Das declined to comment, while another men’s paddler, on condition of anonymity, added that TTFI’s attitude needs to be more hands-on. “All this talk is well and good. But can a half-hearted approach ever translate into medals? I have my doubts.”