03 August, 2021

Ping-Pongology: Table For Ten

The story behind the gradual, gratifying turn of Indian table tennis

Manika Batra, the new face of Indian table tennis
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Ping-Pongology: Table For Ten

In 1973, the legendary Manjit ­Singh Dua travelled around three days in train, from Delhi to Madras, to compete in the national table tennis championships. His determination, however, made light of his grime-enc­rusted journey—he won the first of his three national singles titles. That was how things were for sporting stars of yore. If Dua were playing today, he would have made the journey in under three hours, in airline comfort. Revealingly, Dua, who won his titles between 1973 and 1979, plays a crucial role in making things easier for today’s players.

His efforts have borne fruit—the standard of Indian table tennis has improved enormously. Today, there are two Indians in the top 50 of men’s rankings of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)—Achanta Sharath Kamal (43rd) and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan (46th)—while the men’s team is ranked a creditable 11th. In the women’s category, Manika Batra (69th) and Mouma Das (117th) have the best ranks; the team is ranked 24th.

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