CHENNAI: The number of franchise leagues in India is on the rise. Latest to enter the bandwagon is Ultimate Table Tennis. While many claim that these leagues are beneficial for development of sports in the country and several think they are mostly about promoting brands and making money, the concept is in.
Table tennis is not a very popular in our country. But like many other disciplines, it offers a lot of sports quota jobs. So a lot of players take interest in it with the idea of landing a job.
The Indian mentality of getting a monthly salary for a living has stalled the progress of many careers. However, that is not the case with table tennis according to Arup Basak, the Indian coach of Maharashtra United. Each of the six teams has an Indian and a foreign coach.
“More than 200 member associations are part of the International Table Tennis Federation. But very few play the sport in India at the international level. So as coaches, we make sure that the talented ones don't stop after they get a job. When they win tournaments, they get promotions and other incentives. So most of them have that desire to move forward,” he said.
Having said that, the amount of money table tennis players in India earn don't help them concentrate fully on the sport, in terms of specialised training, exposure trips or hiring coaches.
A lot of them fund themselves for international tournaments. Though they are reimbursed, there is no scope of earning a lot by playing. No Indian player or team has ever won a medal at the Asian or World Championships, even the Asian Games.
That is where those associated with the new league think this is going to help. A lot of Indian players are assured to earn substantially. “Most players in other countries start at a very young age. That is why they are a step above us. India also have started doing the same recently. But we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Basak, the former men's singles national champion.
Many top players and coaches are part of UTT. “The experience of playing against international stars is the best thing that can happen to Indian players. The prize money comes second. It will have an important role too. But exposure from the tournament is something that will benefit the Indians in the long run,” he concluded.