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TT hopes dim in Assam

- Former players blame organisational lapses for decline

Guwahati, Feb. 9: There was a time when the Indian table tennis team would not be complete without a player from Assam. But the situation has changed over the last decade, with almost no player from the state in the reckoning for a berth in the side.

The state today craves for the golden era, which saw the likes of international players, including former captain and Commonwealth Games medallist Arunjyoti Baruah, Modalasa Baruah, Meena Bora, Nandini Baruah, Rahul Dutta, Curfew Roy, Pranami Dutta Mazumdar, Papori Hazarika Bora and Monalisha Baruah Mehta, among others.

A section of veterans blames organisational lapses for the failure to unearth good table tennis players. Former eight-time national champion and Arjuna awardee Monalisa said, “There is no dearth of talent in Assam but we have failed to put things in place. Although there was a lack of proper infrastructure during our days, we used to have joint coaching camps. Good players cannot be produced overnight. Time is passing by and we are waiting for a big decision, which can again lift the game in the state.”

Mehta and her husband Kamlesh said they would be glad to train budding talents if given an opportunity. “We have coached Assam players before the 2007 National Games. My husband has been coaching in Gujarat, which has produced good results. We are ready to help if approached,” she added.

“I am always misunderstood whenever I say something. The association organises coaching camps but where is the follow-up? A coach comes and trains players for around 20 days but the organisers do nothing to ensure sustainable development. Fitness is an essential part of any sport but some paddlers hardly go through their regular drills. Organisers need to look into other aspects, apart from their own publicity,” said Abbasuddin Ahmed, former secretary of the Assam Table Tennis Association.

Former state champion and table tennis secretary of the Guwahati Sports Association, Mukul Boro, lamented the lack of coaching camps and exposure trips. “The current scenario is not systematic at all. Before the nationals, there are no camps or exposure trips to boost the morale of the players. It is good that a Korean coach came and trained young players but there is no follow-up action. Our ranking tournaments start at odd times of the year compared to other states. Just organising tournaments doesn’t help the players’ development.”

Tapan Dutta, one of the pioneers of the game in the state, said, “The coaching method is not effective to produce quality players. A good player requires dedication and hard work to become a great one. Although the sport has got enough logistics support, it has failed to yield the desired result owing to the lack of sustainable efforts. Organisers, some of them former players, are apparently trying to be poster boys rather than working towards improving the standards. It is time for the stakeholders to thrash out a strategy to restore the lost glory of the sport.”

The ATTA secretary, Tridib Duvarah, could not be contacted for his comments on the issue.