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Facing Nigeria in Commonwealth Games final was a big surprise: Achanta Sharath Kamal

When India regained the Commonwealth Games (CWG) title after a gap of 12 years in Gold Coast on Monday, Achanta Sharath Kamal played a crucial role, winning three matches in the semi-finals against Singapore and the first singles in final to give India a good start against Nigeria.

other sports Updated: Apr 11, 2018 09:21 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Gold Coast
Commonwealth Games,CWG 2018,Achanta Sharath Kamal
India, led by Achanta Sharath Kamal (in pic), Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai, beat Nigeria to win gol din the men's table tennis final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG 2018) in Gold Coast. (PTI)

When India last won the men’s team title in Commonwealth Games (CWG) table tennis, Achanta Sharath Kamal played a crucial role, helping the team beat Singapore 3-2 in the final. He went on to win the men’s singles title too and many thought that was his best performance in an event of this stature. (CWG live updates)

When India regained the title after a gap of 12 years on Monday night, Sharath again played a crucial role, winning three matches in the semi-finals against Singapore and the first singles to give India a good start in the final against Nigeria.

Arguably one of the best table tennis players the country has produced, Sharath, who was once ranked 32 in the world, is settled in Dusseldorf and plays in the league there. Earlier, he has played in the Spanish and Swedish leagues.

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Excerpts from an interview with Sharath, who has moved to 48th in the latest rankings:

You had said a few days back that you would be surprised if India did not win a medal in Gold Coast. But did you expect that medal to be gold?

Yes, I expected it to be gold because we were the highest-ranked team in the competition, so it was expected that we would win the title. But the semi-final against Singapore was close. We won 3-2 and it was very satisfying, especially winning the fifth match was very good for me.

The final against Nigeria, nobody expected it to be so easy?

Actually, we were expecting to England to be in the final, so facing Nigeria was a big surprise. But it seems everything fell in place against Nigeria.

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About your form, you won some crucial matches against Singapore and Nigeria. So how are you shaping up?

I am in good form. It is very important that I maintain this physical condition because it is a very lengthy tournament and we have to play a lot of matches. So, I just have to stay fit.

The women’s team’s triumph was quite unexpected…

Yes, that was a big surprise, quite unexpected, especially beating Singapore in the final as they had some high- ranked players. But the way Manika (Batra) played in the final, it was quite brilliant.

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The pair of Mouma and Madhurika too played very well. I think the team did very good. In the semi-final, they beat England 3-0, which was very good and beating Singapore in the final is a big achievement.

Were you also surprised by the 3-1 scoreline in the final?

Yes, it was. Everyone thought it would be a close match but the way the girls played, they were brilliant.

You are 35, while there were a couple of players in the same age bracket in Nigeria and Singapore too who have caught second wind as far as their career is concerned. So, has 35 become the new 25 in table tennis?

(Laughs) Yes, because the physical fitness aspect is coming into play. Skills are there for so many years and as you get older, you get better with skills and the experience gained over so many years also helps. But maintaining fitness is very important to compete against the young players. And, thanks to the sports science backup, we are able to manage our fitness and extend our careers.

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 09:18 IST