UTT: The minor fall and major lifts of Manush Shah

An inspiring journey in table tennis that started with an injury in school has made Shah realise that he has come a long way.
Table Tennis player Manush Shah.
Table Tennis player Manush Shah.

PUNE: When Manush Shah returned for the fourth season of Ultimate Table Tennis, he hoped to get drafted for the Puneri Paltan. Not just because of the team environment but for the massive boost of home support from the Pune crowd. That support and the team's new look have helped Puneri Paltan, who finished last in the previous season, to reach the semifinal in 2023.

"I wanted to be part of the Puneri Paltan because of the home support we would get," Shah told this daily. "I knew that the league was going to be held only in one place, in Pune. The best thing for us then was the fan base. And they have come to support us. I'm grateful that I got an opportunity to play for this team through UTT," he added.

An inspiring journey in table tennis that started with an injury in school has made Shah realise that he has come a long way. At the same time, he believes he still has more to achieve. "When I was 10 years old, I went through a severe injury. I fell from a height and I injured myself when I was in school. I used to love playing cricket, but my doctor told me that I could not play outdoor sports. I took up table tennis," Shah said.

Shah also talks candidly about the moment he realised the magnitude of his achievements since that fall. "A few years back when I became the world number six in Under-18s, at that time I felt that I have come a long way. But I also realised that I have to go a long way too. I am grateful for everyone who has supported me."

The format of the UTT has helped Shah, who backs himself to thrive in the pressure situations. His confidence proved handy for the Puneri Paltan as he stunned world no. 17 Quadri Aruna of U Mumba to seal the semifinal spot. "That is the beauty of this league. I feel in the short three-game format, any player, irrespective of their world rank, has the chance to beat the acclaimed players. The next time when I play him (Aruna) in the international tournament, I will be more confident than I normally would be. I think that is a good sign for Indian table tennis," confident Shah summarised the importance of UTT.

Apart from Puneri Misal, which he called, 'a little bit too spicy for his taste', Shah is grateful for the journey during his sophomore season in UTT despite losing to Chennai in the semi-final. After this, the paddler is ready to represent India in the Asian Games in China. "I am excited for the Asian Games. The squad is strong, with a mix of youth and experience. I am aware that we will have a couple of difficult games ahead of us in Hangzhou, but we are ready for it," Shah signed off.

The author is in Pune on an invitation from UTT

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