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Hyderabad poised to see huge upsurge in table tennis; talent blossoming profusely

Hyderabad has been at the forefront in leading India to the top in international badminton. The next sport that could see the same phenomenon occurring is table tennis.

Hyderabad is at a crucial juncture. Talent is emerging with prolific abundance and if the right steps are taken at this stage, then Hyderabad may become the hub of the sport. This may push India’s stature higher in the international arena.

What is noteworthy is that parents of school and college going boys and girls are no longer reluctant to spend money on the training of their children in sports such as badminton and table tennis. But the downside of this picture is the fact that table tennis equipment has become very expensive. But, despite rising costs, most parents try to ensure that their children achieve their full potential.

Amrullah Dastani who has several decades of experience as a coach says that the trend is very encouraging and he foresees a bright future for the game in Telangana. “As everyone knows, Commonwealth Games gold medalist Sreeja Akula is the brightest star now. But there are a host of young players who are also on the rise. I have great hopes resting on Jatin Dev Adlakhiya and P. Jalani. These two kids have shown that they have tremendous determination,” said Dastani.

Jatin Dev has been coached by Somnath Ghosh who has made a huge difference to the standard of table tennis in Hyderabad. Jatin has also coached at the St. Paul’s academy. He has represented India in the WTT youth contenders in Slovenia and Croatia and seems destined for bigger things in his career.

Moreover Jatin has been Telangana state champion for six years. This is a record for Telangana as he is the only player to become state champion for six consecutive years. He was selected for a scholarship by the Khelo India scheme run by the Government of India.

P. Jalani, a student of Nasr school, is something of a child prodigy. She was trained at the Victory Playground in Chaderghat by Amrullah Dastani and his wife Simin Dastani (who herself is a former state player). Jalani began her table tennis career in 2016 and by 2020 she was not only the state champion but also obtained 5th rank in the national championship. She has already taken part in tournaments in Goa, Chandigarh and Kolkata and she makes up for missing classes by studying in the summer holidays.

Simin Dastani is highly optimistic that the present crop of boys and girls will take Hyderabad to the top. “Due to the upsurge in COVID, there was a temporary setback but now the situation has improved again. Organisations such as LIC and the Income Tax Department have given jobs to table tennis players,” she said.

A. Narasimha Rao, who is a well known official and organiser of table tennis events, echoes the sentiments of the Dastani couple. “Nowadays I am pleasantly surprised to see that parents are willing to support their children to the hilt in pursuing sports. However, in some cases they stop at a later stage and make their children focus on academics. I request such parents to continue their efforts. No doubt academic excellence is required in life, but sports can take them to great glory,” said Rao.

He pointed out the tremendous feats of Aspathi Satya, a hugely talented paddler from Hyderabad who recently knocked out players much senior to her. Encouraging her constantly is her coach Maduri Venugopal at Gujarati Seva Mandal (GSM).

Narasimha Rao, who runs the Anandnagar Welfare Association Table Tennis Centre, feels that schemes should be worked out to help the underprivileged children who cannot afford the high costs.

“Nowadays, the children have their personal coaches at important championships. Once the team event has ended and the individual championships begin, the players can be seen with their individual coaches guiding them. Coaches accompany them abroad too.

So they spend a lot of money. What the TTFI can do is try to organise more international competitions within India so that Indian players can improve their rankings without having to go abroad often. I want them to open a Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad. That will give a big fillip to the sport. Hyderabad is poised to rise and all the required facilities are available here,” said Rao.