CUTTACK: This time last year, Manika Batra was the new face of Indian sports. After her gold-winning feat at the Commonwealth Games, everyone wanted a piece of her. After that high, she has had a topsy turvy time. But Friday proved to be another day to remember for the Delhi girl as she helped the Indian women’s team beat Singapore and England en route their first-ever Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship title on Friday.
What made the win even more impressive was the fact that she did it while suffering from a viral infection and high fever. Due to the condition worsening, she had to withdraw from the singles and doubles events. “Whenever I play for the country, I try and forget everything else and just give my best. It was difficult for me to adjust physically as I was feeling weak and dizzy but I’m glad I could help my country win a gold medal.”
The last time in Surat (2015), the team had lost out to Singapore in the finals. Manika is the lone survivor from that squad. The defending champs had held a vice-like grip over the India Cup winning it eight consecutive times since 1997. They were beaten 0-3 in the semifinal before the hosts handed out another 3-0 thrashing to England.“You can say it was revenge of sorts,” she said while laughing. “I think we all played well and credit goes to everybody.”
Tokyo is just around the corner and teams around the world are busy preparing. While a medal is unlikely in singles, team events, doubles and mixed doubles offer a significantly higher chance of yielding results, with the 24-year-old’s pairing with A Sharath Kamal being one of the strongest. “This event would have been a great place to build confidence but unfortunately I just couldn’t carry on. I have spoken to Sharath bhaiya and he also understood. We will have more chances in the upcoming Pro Tour events as well as the National Championships. We are both working towards it and I hope we can get there.”
As of yet, no coach has come in to replace Massimo Costantini. There are talks that Dejan Papic might finally arrive next month. Quite a few have gone on record to say that the momentum that had built up after the twin successes at the CWG and Asian Games has since dissipated. But the Arjuna awardee feels that till the new coach arrives, each player should do their own training to the best of their abilities.
“Max was obviously of great help. He is still a great well-wisher and keeps guiding us whenever we all see him at pro tours. I can’t speak on behalf of all players but I feel table tennis being an individual sport, each player should work hard in his or her own way. Like currently the likes of Archana Kamath, G Sathiyan, Manav Thakker, Sharath and A Amalraj all train abroad. Brett Clarke is also a great coach and he has been of immense help.”