The last time Anthony Amalraj jumped on the table to celebrate a victory, it seemed to rub salt into Achanta Sharath Kamal’s wounds. The stunt, pulled off at the finals of the 2012 nationals, had seen Amalraj being fined and issued a warning.
On a balmy Friday morning, Amalraj repeated his antics, perhaps putting in much more force as the table wobbled dangerously under his weight. Sharath was there too, not the glowering one, but someone who smiled benignly at Amalraj’s enthusiasm.
Sharath and Amalraj had just ensured passage to the gold medal match in the men’s table-tennis doubles event. The Indian duo defeated the rather formidable Singapore pairing of Zi Yang and Jian Zhan comfortably. The final score was 3-0 in favour of the Indians, with both Sharath and Amalraj looking in fine form.
India has not had the best of runs in the table tennis event so far. The men’s team lost its bronze medal match to Nigeria, while the women’s team went down in another third-place clash to Australia.
While India picked up five medals in 2010, till Thursday night it looked as if the Indian contingent would return without a medal. Most of India’s challenges in the game’s other categories are winding down and Sharath says this medal-less run was beginning to play on his mind.
After Delhi, where we picked up a fair few medals, this was not looking good. Everyone was absolutely devastated when we lost to Nigeria. I was culpable too, having been expected to win my singles. But before coming to the table today, I told Amalraj that we had to get a medal here and I am very happy that he responded in such an aggressive fashion,” says the 32-year-old.
When Sharath picked up a gold in the men’s doubles at Delhi four years ago, he did that after playing with his then-partner (Subhajit Saha) for almost a year preceding the games. This time, the situation has been radically different.
Till two weeks before the Games, I had been training for the men’s doubles with Sanil Shetty. Just 12 days ago, coach Engel (Peter) told me that I would be partnering Amalraj. He said it would be better for me, as Amalraj also has considerable experience. To be honest, I was definitely a bit skeptical, but right now the coach’s call makes a lot of sense,” he says. Sharath and Amalraj will face another duo from Singapore in the gold medal match.
Sharath in singles semis
Later in the day, Sharath moved into the men’s singles semi-final, defeating England’s Paul Drinkhall 4-1. Sharath won the first three games 11-7, 11-6, 12-10 before Drinkhall pulled one back at 11-9. Sharath won the fifth game 11-6 to wrap up the match.