Manika Batra, India’s top woman paddler, is clear that she wants her personal coach Sanmay Paranjape to be at the court-side during the Asian table tennis championships in Doha from September 28 to October 5.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games singles champion insisted that having a personal coach involves ‘no cost’ to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). “I think it should happen naturally… TTFI has never sent or paid for the coach or even physio I have travelled with – not for the team event. In the team event, the other coach is fine but after that, we have a singles event where I would want my coach to be there for every tournament and I think this is a basic requirement of every player in an individual sport,” World No. 56 Manika Batra told Sportstar on Wednesday.
Excerpts from the interview:
How do you assess your performance in WTT contender Budapest held recently?
Reaching the semifinals was good considering it was just after the Tokyo Olympics. Last time, I had entered the pre-quarters in Hungary. Of course, I would have loved to reach the final as well and it was possible. I needed better mental preparation for that. But nonetheless, I am fine with the semifinals for now. Winning the mixed doubles title with Sathiyan was special.
What do you think about Sreeja Akula who put up a good fight against you in the quarterfinals at Budapest?
Sreeja played the Hungary tournament really well. At that level, there is always good competition and she did put up a great fight. She was there with her coach [Somnath Ghosh] from Hyderabad. It was good to compete with her in the quarters.
What are your expectations from the Asian TT championships in Doha?
At the Asians, I will try to give my best. Asia is a very TT special continent, so it will be a good outing for all of us and we will give our best and prepare for the further bigger occasions like the Asian Games.
Do you think personal coaches will be allowed by TTFI for the Asians? If not, will you insist on a personal coach?
I think it should happen naturally as it is at ‘No Cost’ to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). TTFI has never sent or paid for the coach or even physio I travelled with. Not for the team event. In the team event, the other coach is fine but after that, we have a singles event, where I would want my coach [Sanmay] to be there in every tournament and I think this is a basic requirement of every player in an individual sport. For the singles, anyone willing to assist the player they train should be there. It’s best for the country’s performance.
I think such things should not even need insisting upon and every player should have them for the top tournaments to give their best. It is, after all, an individual game and not football or hockey. In tennis/badminton people travel with their coach with whom they have worked and who knows their game. So, I really wish the problems aren’t there for anyone.
Post-Olympics, do you think your game has improved?
I need to work more to improve on various aspects after the third-round performance in Tokyo. The Hungary [WTT Contender Budapest event] outing was good but that’s not even 10 percent of what my coach expects me to and what I wish (to achieve). I wish to work harder and play even better for the years to come.
How has the Tokyo Olympics been for you? Did the controversies have an impact on your performance?
Of course, I was affected and it did have an effect on the match I played and lost [to Sofia Polcanova in the singles third round]. I have taken up the issue even before and after I received [the show-cause notice from TTFI]. I hope the TTFI is fair and I am hopeful and wish they [TTFI] take some steps for justice. I am and have always been focused on my effort and the work we need to put in to give the best for India.
What are your plans and preparations for the 2022 CWG and Asian Games?
A player must really train and workout and play every day. I will have to have mini plans that will lead to a bigger plan leading to these events. I wish to work hard, and my training should be to the level of the opponent I’ll face. That’s my plan for now. And it is tough, but challenges are what I love and I will be happy to take them.
How has coach Sanmay helped in developing your overall game?
He is genuinely hard-working and sincere, and puts in a lot of work without making any fuss. I do wish to say I am lucky to train under him. Though I should have had a coach like him much earlier in life. But better late than never. He never lets me stop and pushes me to work harder than ever.
Is a medal possible in the Asian championship in Doha or in any of the events?
Before the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, I had never discussed this. For the country, I will always say we really go there to finish on a podium be it whichever event. That’s the only thing we live for. So let’s say we do have our targets set in mind and prepare for them.
Can India be a force in the women’s category as a whole in the International arena in the future?
Of course, it can be. I am very hopeful about it. We will work for it and can see it happening. Support us.
How do you see the progress of the Indian women’s team in the next couple of years?
Overall, the level has improved as now even the girls work hard with their coaches in India or travel abroad for training. Let’s say I am willing to be part of the growth and let’s hope our team does well. It helps the nation in every way. It’s motivating too for me.