CHENNAI : “Pressure is a privilege. People have started expecting and we will have to take it in a positive manner. It’s always nice (to go to a tournament with that sort of mindset). We are confident that we can bag a medal.” Those were the words of G Sathiyan when asked for his thoughts on the upcoming World Team Championships in Sweden (April 29-May 6). Confidence is infectious and Sathiyan, who won three Commonwealth Games medals at Gold Coast, is the living embodiment of that. Keeping in mind that India’s best-ever finish at the Worlds was a 12th place finish (during Venugopal Chandresekhar’s time), Sathiyan’s proclamation is ambitious, to say the least. But he has his own theory for that.
“England won a medal at the World Championships (bronze at the 2016 edition in Kuala Lumpur and we were better than them at CWG. So why can’t we?” the 22-year-old said at a function that was held here to felicitate the medal-winning Tamil Nadu-based table tennis players. Even otherwise, Sathiyan’s ambitions are not misplaced. In the same tournament in KL, India were in Division II, a rung below Division I — the sport’s creme de la creme. Subsequently, they won promotion to the creamy layer and have had a few noteworthy results.
The bench strength is also quite good. In fact, one under-reported CWG fact was that Anthony Amalraj, who was seldom summoned from the bench, is the country’s best ranked singles player as on date. A Sharath Kamal pointed it out to the fraternity who were in attendance. “Our strength was so good that Amalraj was on the bench and he is India No 1.” The sport, like many others in the country, has embraced a franchise- based league system to grow and Sathiyan said that was a factor in the new-found confidence. “In the earlier days, it was us having to go abroad to play against the best. That changed in 2017 when some of the best players came to our shores to take part in the league.” He was also quick to credit coach Massimo Costantini’s role.
“After the CWG in 2010, a lot of people were satisfied. There were a lot of scams and there was no money in the sport. But Costantini changed that after coming to India for the second time. He was very good with administrative work. That resulted in us getting more funding, exposure trips, proper training regimes. For example, I myself have played in close to 50 international events in the last three years. That’s one reason why I didn’t feel that much pressure in Gold Coast.”
Doing it at that level is one thing. Doing it against the world’s best is completely different. And India will feel that on April 30 when they face South Korea (the second most successful nation in the history of the Olympics). Can they do it? To borrow the title of one of Jeffrey Archer’s recent works, ‘Only Time Will Tell’.
CM fetes medallists
Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami handed over cash awards to the state’s CWG medallists. Sharath and Sathiyan got a crore each. Anthony Amalraj received `50 lakh along with weightlifter Sathish Sivalingam. Squash stars Dipika Pallikal and Saurav Ghoshal were handed `60 lakh and `30 lakh. Cash awards totalling `54 lakh was also distributed among eight coaches. email@example.com