New Delhi: Not many Indian players will go as defending champions at the upcoming Commonwealth Games but the table tennis team has at least two, one as a team.
Achanta Sharath Kamal and the men`s doubles pair of A Amalraj and Soumyadeep Roy won the titles at the Melbourne edition.
The 10 strong team and the support staff, is doing every bit that more players stand on podium before the home crowd.
In the last phase of preparations, the players have again gone to the ping-pong powerhouse -- China -- for training and Kamal is brimming with confidence that it will stand them in good stead.
In the last one year several trips to China was a part of their training for the October sporting extravaganza.
Kamal recently clinched two international titles, including his maiden Pro Tour crown in Cairo and the world number 41 is confident of defending his title.
"I am very confident of retaining the singles title in the Commonwealth Games. I had started my mental preparation three years ago, because to win such a big event you need to formulate a long-term strategy, things do not happen overnight," Kamal, who last month broke into top-50 bracket, said.
"China tours are giving much required exposure to the players. There we can play against quality Chinese paddlers and that improve our skills also. I hope that it will help us during the Delhi Games," he added.
Kamal, who had reached a career best ranking of 39th, has slipped two rungs down in the latest ITTF rating list.
Not only Kamal, who is a regular on the European circuit, Indian team boasts experienced hands like former national champion Subhajit Saha and Sourav Chakraborty.
Experience of A Amalraj and Soumyadeep Roy will also add to the strength of Indian team.
Among women, hopes will be on reigning national champion, Bengal girl Poulomi Ghatak and her doubles partner Mouma Das.
The women`s team had won a bronze in Melbourne Games and this time they are targetting the yellow metal but it will be difficult in the presence of players from countries such as Singapore.
In women`s singles, former national champion Kumaresan Shamini, Madhurika Patkar and Mamta Prabhu have the ability to pull off upsets on their days.
The CWG-bound paddlers are currently in China and will return on September 12 after undergoing a month-long training programme.
Chief SAI coach for table tennis, Bhawani Mukherjee who is handling Indian team`s preparation is also confident that India will have a good medal haul.
"We are currently training hard and the players are in good form. We kept an eye on players` international rankings while picking the final squad for Commonwealth Games so that we can secure good seedings," Mukherjee, who is co-ordinating with foreign coach Italian Massimo Constantini, said.
To ensure good performance at the Delhi Games, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has taken a slew of measures, ranging from engaging Kamal`s younger brother Rajath as sports analyst to roping in a travelling physiotherapist.
The Indian players though know that fetching honours on the home turf would not be a cake-walk as besides tough competition they would also have to handle the pressure of expectation.
"I know that pressure will be there because people expect me to perform. But I want to encash the huge support I will get during the Games. People cheering for you is itself very inspiring which will help me," Kamal said.
"I am sure that all the other players will also give their best during the Games."
Apart from Singapore and Hong Kong, Indian paddlers would have to negotiate stiff challenges from Malaysia, New Zealand and Nigeria in the men`s section.