NEW DELHI: Prior to the Olympics Games, a lot was expected of India’s mixed doubles challenge in unheralded sports like archery and table tennis. But on Saturday, both sets of teams not only failed to perform up to expectations, their comments and actions raised unnecessary controversy, something which was not seen in good light by their respective National Sports Federations.
The first controversy of the day was seen after Team India’s triumph over Chinese Taipei in the 1/8 qualification round. World No 1 and the lone woman to qualify for the Games, Deepika Kumari expressed her disappointment with her choice of partner. After Friday’s qualification, the selection committee decided to go for Pravin Jadhav instead of Atanu Das purely on the basis of performance.
“I’m a little sad Atanu is not with me in the mixed team. It mattered, as I really wanted to play with him but it did not happen,” was the 27-year-old’s reaction. Deepika and debutant Jadhav looked scrappy in their first match together against Chinese Taipei and trailed 1-3 before regaining form in the final two sets to storm into the last-eight.
Ultimately, the decision didn’t pay off with Jadhav hitting a six in the crucial fourth set to end up succumbing to the top seed Korean duo of An San and Kim Je Deok 2-6. Deepika did not exactly cover herself in glory as she was unable to hit a single perfect 10 from eight arrows. That the two Korean Olympic debutants, 17-year-old Kim Je Deok and 20-year-old An San won two sets despite scoring only 35 out of a possible 40 showed the inconsistent shooting from India.
Archery Association of India officials did not think her comment was justified. “We were unable to get over the line when it mattered, there are no two ways about it. But to say it was because of Atanu’s absence would not be the right thing. What if they had been paired up but still lost? Our selection was based purely on from,” a top official said. Sources even indicated that Deepika tried to change the combination but it did not bear fruit.
Noise in table tennis too
The table tennis event and in particular Manika Batra’s actions was another bone of contention. Since landing in Tokyo, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medallist has been trying to ensure her
personal coach Sanmay Paranjape got pitch-side access.
And on Saturday, during her singles first round match against 94th-ranked Tin-Tin Ho of Britain, she refused to let national coach Soumyadeep Roy sit in her corner. The World No 62 did mark her match with a 4-0 win but team manager MP Singh, a TTFI advisor, who is in Tokyo said the organisers refused her request to allow Sanmay’s entry.
“She tried going through the Chef De Mission but the organisers refused to comply as it is against the Olympic rules. After her request for on court access for her personal coach was denied, she refused to be coached by our national coach. We cannot help but wish her well for the future matches. Hope she does well,” he revealed.
The fancied mixed team of A Sharath Kamal and Manika lost 0-4 to third seeds Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei in the mixed doubles Round of 16. Roy was seen court-side during that particular contest. The duo did not really practice together back in India when they had the chance.
Sutirtha Mukherjee, on the other hand, made a strong impression on her Olympics debut with a come from behind 4-3 win against 78th-ranked Linda Bergstrom of Sweden. There were apprehensions regarding her ability against a quality chopper but Sutirtha emerged triumphant. Sutirtha will play Portugal’s Fu Yu in the second round while Manika takes on Ukrain’s Margaryta Pesotska, who is ranked 32.