Sharath Kamal keen to smash COVID-19 fear with TT racquet

Updated: 23 October, 2020 07:46 IST | Ashwin Ferro | Mumbai

TT is a lot safer as it's a non-contact sport. Besides, SAI [Sports Authority of India] has specifically chosen this school as there is no other activity going on here, so we'll be safe

Achanta Sharath Kamal
Achanta Sharath Kamal

Achanta Sharath Kamal, 38, has been the flagbearer of Indian table tennis for over a decade. So it's only apt that he leads the charge as the sport resumes in the country after its seven-month long Coronavirus-forced break.

The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) on Thursday announced that the national camp will be held at the DPS School in Sonepat, Haryana from October 28, and the list of players is headlined by India's highest ranked paddler, Sharath (World No. 31).

Safety factor

"This camp has been cancelled a few times. It's understandable that players are apprehensive given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's why I was so insistent on being part of the camp. I'm hoping that seeing me coming, other players will join. TT is a lot safer as it's a non-contact sport. Besides, SAI [Sports Authority of India] has specifically chosen this school as there is no other activity going on here, so we'll be safe. Also, Delhi was picked over Bangalore as it's a bit cooler there now, so we should not sweat a lot as that could create complications, given the rapid spread of this virus," Sharath, India's most decorated paddler, told
mid-day from his Chennai home on Thursday.

Fewer players

There will be only five male and four female players attending the camp initially as a couple of top names like G Sathiyan (World No. 32) and Harmeet Desai (No. 72) are playing in leagues abroad. However, the length of the camp (35 days) has Sharath a tad worried. "The last time I attended such a long camp was back in 2004, at Patiala. We were 12 guys and 12 girls, along with a foreign coach, and things got a bit stale, so we took a break and went to Chandigarh in between. This time we are fewer, so surely we will get very, very, stale unless we plan things well. We have to divide the camp into phases of seven to eight days with breaks in between to keep things interesting," explained Sharath, who won his first international title in 10 years—the Oman Open—in March, after which the lockdown came into effect. "Throughout the lockdown I have mostly trained at home, with just one or two different partners.

Getting into the groove

"This camp is a necessity to get us back into the groove. International tournaments could begin in March and the Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers could be held in around eight months' time. It willl be nice to have some intense training to set things up for a crucial year ahead," said the four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

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First Published: 23 October, 2020 07:39 IST

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