Table Tennis national camp proposal resisted by players
The Table Tennis Federation of India’s (TTFI) proposal to organise a national camp towards the end of June has been met with unanimous resistance and apprehension from the country’s top players, who feel it’s best to wait and watch for at least a month or two.
The TTFI sent an email to some players on Tuesday seeking their view on the possibility of a national camp next month for India’s top eight male and female players, along with their coaches, shortlisting a few cities for the same. This is the second such proposal sent out by the federation to players after the first email early last week proposing a camp at the end of May.
However, despite the revised time period and the federation’s assurance that it will follow all guidelines set by the government as well as the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for the resumption of training for elite athletes, top paddlers believe it is too soon to even think about organising a camp.
“Firstly, even though domestic flights have started, travel is an issue. And more importantly, it’s not safe. It’s good that the federation is being proactive, but it is simply too early at this point to even think about a camp,” Sharath Kamal, India’s top paddler at world No 31, said on Wednesday. “The federation officials themselves will not be happy to travel at this point of time, so what’s the hurry?”
The federation plans to have individual rooms for each player and coach in residential academies, with separate training sessions for men and women while following all precautions mandated by the SOP. “We are looking at the Raman academy (Raman TT High Performance Centre) in Chennai, Sonepat or New Delhi. Kolkata was an option but isn’t any longer due to the Cyclone Amphan,” TTFI secretary general MP Singh said.
However, the idea of people from different cities assembling at one place is not cutting ice with the players. “I spoke to Sanil Shetty and a couple of other guys, and nobody is keen on a camp,” said Surat-based Harmeet Desai, the country’s third highest ranked male player. “Travelling is quite risky, and cases in India are still on the rise. If we stay with other players, it might not be safe. It is difficult to take a decision to go to a camp. We need some more time.”
Sharath added: “You can have individual rooms and quarantine players, but what about cooks and cleaning staff? And I don’t think anybody will want to come to Chennai (which has a high number of positive Covid-19 cases) at this point of time.”
G Sathiyan—who along with Sharath is waiting for the Tamil Nadu government’s approval to begin individual training in Chennai—said three aspects have to be taken care of before the idea of camp can be put on the table.
“First, state governments have to allow local players to start training internally without any travel; even that hasn’t happened yet here in Chennai. Then, transport has to resume normally with all flights operating safely without any cancellations. And third, there should be no quarantine rules in any state. Before these things happen, I feel it is practically impossible and unsafe to hold any camp. We could probably think of something in August, and that is also if things get better and come close to normalcy,” the world No 32 Sathiyan said.