CHENNAI: Franchise-based leagues are taking over sports in India. With corporates funding the initiatives, many international stars are seen plying their trade in different cities. With UTT, table tennis too has made its mark. With most of these leagues being telecast live, glamour is a must to get TRPs. Such demands sometimes force organisers to amend rules to make it a little more engaging.
Most of the foreign stars, who are part of the inaugural edition, have played in top leagues in Europe. Take Marcos Freitas for example. Playing for AS Pontoise-Cergy TT in the French top division called Pro A, the Portuguese feels it might take time for players to adjust to the new system.
“It's very different. There are many new rules. Today, it was hard as it was my first match and not all the rules were inside my head. Especially the rule on 10 seconds between each point. A lot of techniques and tactics are involved in table tennis. After each point, the player is thinking. It's difficult to play fast when you are not relaxed. We are thinking too much about the next point and things to do. So 10 seconds is very short. Most other rules are easier,” Freitas told Express.
The reason to amend rules is to make the game faster and more entertaining for spectators. In usual leagues, things like time-outs burn a lot of time and can be boring for viewers. But even for Han Ying, the top-ranked woman at the tournament, this change has been hard to get accustomed to. “It was too fast for me. Even though I was leading, it was hectic. But it's only a matter of time. I think I can get used to it,” she said.
Leagues abroad are more stress-free, comparatively. Ying plays for KTS Tarnobrzeg in Poland. Losing a match over there is not a big deal for the team as there is time to catch up later, according to the World No 9. However, Ying feels this is a great opportunity for youngsters. “I am very impressed and happily surprised with the Indian talent on display. I hope youngsters take as much knowledge as possible from the pros they share the dressing room with.
"When we started, there was nothing of this sort. Youngsters should make maximum use of the opportunity. I have played in Europe for more than 10 years. The difference is, here, every game counts. It's making me nervous. Maybe, this is the next big thing. I think it's good because it's something new.”