Eight-time National table tennis champion Kamlesh Mehta feels that India will be a force to reckon with at the highest level, given the remarkable improvement shown in recent times.
“There is no doubting that Sharath Kamal continues to be the strongest and India's best bet in many international events.
“But at the same time, it is really pleasing the way Amalraj has been shaping up of late,” says Kamlesh, who was on a visit to St. Paul's Stag Table Tennis Academy here on Tuesday.
“The combination of Sharath and Amalraj is just what Indian table tennis needs badly, especially in team events. The brilliant win by Sharath and Subhajit Saha in the second round over the second-seeded Chinese pair of Ma Lin and Zhang Jike, in the Asian team championship on Monday, was just another indication of this.
These sorts of wins are a huge morale-booster for the sport in India,” feels the 52-year-old champion player of yesteryears.
“I don't think in terms of talent, the Indians lag far behind compared to the best in the world. What we need is far better infrastructural support to groom young talent across the country. Look at St. Paul's School. I wish many schools in India have a table tennis academy on the school premises itself,” remarked the double Olympian.
And, his wife and Arjuna awardee Monalisa Barua Mehta chips in to remind that during her school days she was more than pleased just to get permission to compete in the inter-school events.
“Considering that, having an academy in your own school should make a world of difference. I wish the young talent here in this academy makes optimum use of the facilities,” Kamlesh pointed out.
Scared of no one
Reflecting on what has to be done to see more Indians win laurels at the highest level, Kamlesh pointed that India was the second best in the Commonwealth Games, winning five medals, and has been doing really well even in the Asian circuit.
“The biggest feature of Indian table tennis now is that we are no more scared of anyone. The effort is always there, without any inhibitions. Remember, we narrowly missed a medal in the Asian championship, losing 2-3 to Chinese Taipei? And, India also won a bronze in the junior Worlds recently,” he explained.
Coaching is concern
Kamlesh feels that the grey area of concern is coaching.
“It is more of a part-time job for many. What we need is more feeder centres which constantly throw up genuine, young talent which can be groomed with long-term planning.
“This is where I feel former National players from Hyderabad, Nagender Reddy and Ibrahim Khan, have done an excellent job setting up the St. Paul's Academy,” he added.
“I will not say we are going to win medals in the upcoming World Championship, but the Indians may cause at least a couple of upsets.”