The absence of sports psychologist Gayatri Vartak from India’s 14-member table tennis contingent for the upcoming Commonwealth Games has not gone down well with the players. Vartak, a former badminton player, was on the long list (published on the Table Tennis Federation of India website) of players and support staff for the Birmingham Games, beginning July 28, but has not made the final squad.
Sharath Kamal, arguably India’s finest player ever, reigning national champion Sreeja Akula and Reeth Rishya said Vartak’s presence in the contingent would have made a big difference. “The 33 per cent rule has made it difficult to have all the support we need. For me personally, the mental coach could be of great help — given the pressure and the expectations of the Games. Had approached SAI with a request but could not find a place for more support staff,” Kamal, who will be featuring in his fifth CWG, said.
As per the guidelines, up to 33 per cent of the athlete count make up the support staff, but it is not strictly followed. For eight players, six members will be travelling to Birimgham as part of the support staff, including two national coaches S Raman and Anindita Chakraborty, Manika Batra’s personal coach Chris Adrian Pfeiffer, masseur Harmeet Kaur, physio Vikash Singh and team manager S D Mudgil. Mudgil is a member of the High Court-appointed Committee of Administrators running the TTFI.
Men’s national coach Raman is also the personal coach of G Sathiyan. Mental conditioning coach Vartak had worked with the Indian team at the national camp in Bengaluru in May. “I have been working personally with Gayatri for the last eight months and it has helped me a lot. She was also there when I won my maiden national title. In a big event like CWG, a mental coach can only be beneficial,” said Sreeja. Her teammate Reeth added: “Having a mental trainer with you helps a lot in pressure situations which we are expected to face at the Commonwealth Games. I hope there is still a way and we can take her to Birmingham.”