KOCHI: Having been plagued by a pervasive menace of paddlers manipulating their age records, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), in 2014, issued a deadline for players to voluntarily disclose if they had ever misrepresented their ages.
By November 25 that year, 102 players came forward admitting to possessing two age certificates and accepted a reduced punishment of one-year bans.
Due to the media attention the incident garnered, it is quite known what nudged the players to come clean — an exhaustive online database of players’ personal details and competition history.
But what many wouldn’t know is that it was a Keralite who was behind the administrative reform that made this clean-up possible.
One of the most accomplished officials in the country, and also the technical committee chairman of TTFI, Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer initiated the process to digitise the players records in 2010.
“The idea was to create an online database and bring details such as age and competition history of a player into the public domain, so that anyone can spot if a player has committed anything unseemly. This was the biggest tool we had in forcing the errant players to come out with the facts,” said Ganeshan, the first and the only official from Asia to be nominated as a competition manager in the International Table Tennis Federation.
“The database was the biggest thing that helped us act towards achieving greater probity and professionalism in Indian table tennis,” he stressed.
Professionalism is a word Ganeshan holds close to his heart. Having been in the field of umpiring, refereeing and managing table tennis competitions across the world for the past 27 years, Ganeshan is statistically the best person to talk about the standard practices of the game in India.
“When I began my career as an umpire in 1988, announcements would run simultaneously with the matches. The announcers would simply repeat who is competing against whom at which table,” he reminisced.
“Later, when I progressed to being an international referee, I noticed that such a practice was not there in global tournaments. So I pitched to the TTFI the idea of barring announcements while the matches are underway, and today the players play without much external disturbances in India,” he added.
With more than a decade of exposure to the ways of the best table tennis players, Ganeshan’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class academy in Thiruvananthapuram.
“I want the yesteryear stalwarts to come back and impart their skills to youngsters. We have a lot of talent in Kerala, but only a few skilled hands to train them properly and mould them into match-winners,” said Ganeshan, who took VRS from his bank job to focus more on his dream pursuit.