CHENNAI: When the draft of the Ultimate Table Tennis league was announced, one expected the Rao brothers, Srinivasa and Muralidhara to be lapped up by franchises as coaches. Scores of players at the SDAT-AKG academy are coached by the duo, who also have nurtured and produced several Olympians, the most prominent being A Sharath Kamal.
However Muralidhara was the only one to get picked by Challengers as their Indian coach. Muralidhara is upbeat about his team’s chances and believes that the league would do a world of good for the sport in the country. “We have an energetic and balanced side with a fair chance. The player draft and format was designed in such a way that the team’s composition is balanced without exposing any team to a disadvantage,’’ said Muralidhara.
Generally in sporting leagues, foreign players usually overshadow Indians. “We have got our combination right. Indian players in our team are Soumyajit Ghosh and Manav Thakkar among men and Mouma Das and Moumita Dutta among women. The foreign players are Andrej Gacina of Croatia and Li Ping of Qatar (men), Han Ying of Germany and Petrissa Solja of Germany (women). Our foreign women players are very experienced and this may give us an edge over others,” he opined.
Muralidhara does not believe in changing the style of his players or making changes in their game for the sake of it. “I encourage players to play their natural game. What I try to instil is self-belief and also the ability to up the tempo as per the situation. There are no specific areas our team needs to improve when compared to others. The drafting procedure was such that most teams have the right balance, except for some teams, preferring lesser ranked players in order to strengthen doubles play, where combination is more important than individual ranking,” opined Muralidhara.
Will the league have a chief coach, assistant coach culture as seen in other leagues. “There is no nomenclature as chief coach. Each team is assisted by one foreign and an Indian coach. Our team’s foreign coach is Elina Timina of Netherlands. I’m looking forward to forging a good combination,” he said.