All is not well in the Rio-bound Indian table tennis camp as country’s top player Soumyajit Ghosh’s decision to give walkover at a domestic event after refusing to play with a certain kind of ball has left chief national coach Bhawani Mukherjee and TTFI top brass fuming.
Ghosh is currently India’s highest ranked player at world No 68. The incident happened on Thursday at the Inter-Institutional TT Championship in Jaipur, where Ghosh turned up for his employers Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) and gave a walk over in the individual event after playing the team event.
The reason being the use of GKI balls (used in domestic tourneys) and not the DHS balls which will be used in Rio. However senior pro and veteran Sharath Kamal due to play his third Olympics had no problems with the ball. This left the TTFI bigwigs and national coach Mukherjee angry as it means of loss crucial match practice ahead of team’s departure to Rio in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
“I am not happy at all with Ghosh’s attitude. When a big player like Sharath has no problem in playing, he should also be playing with Rio just round the corner. Anyway the ball issue is not a big one as different balls are used all around the world and you need to adjust to the bounce as professionals,” Mukherjee said.
“The government has spent so much money on Rio preparations and it would have been ideal if Ghosh would have played against the other top players of the country. It would have been good match practice,” he lamented.
Ghosh, in his defence, said it was not worth taking the risk of playing with a different ball.
“I did play with the GKI ball in the team event but then thought it might affect with my rhythm later on. I did not want to take a chance ahead of the Olympics. I have been practising with DHS balls for the last three months. There is nothing more to it,” Ghosh, who is set for his second Olympics, said that he had no injury issues and insisted that he was not afraid of losing to his rivals.
Sharath, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, on his part said it was always a risk playing with different balls but it is something you can’t help.
“You always run a risk of switching over from one ball to another. I was prepared to take the risk because I have a responsibility and I was competing only in singles here. It hardly matters whether or not I can win here. But I certainly would want do well at the Games,” said Sharath, who leads India’s biggest ever table tennis squad at the Games with four players qualifying for the first time.
TTFI secretary general Dhanraj Choudhary too was not amused when he found that Ghosh had decided to give a walkover.
“We have rarely used DHS balls in India. We either have Stag or GKI and they both are certified by the world body ITTF. So I really don’t understand why Ghosh decided to give a walkover. He could have got good match practice,” said Choudhary.