Ahead of CWG, national TT champ finally finds a foreign club

New Delhi: Reigning national table tennis champion Sanil Shetty has got a shot in the arm days ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

He will be playing for a first division Polish club post the Glasgow event, ending his long wait for an overseas stint, something his India teammates have had a brush with.

Shetty said he has signed an eight-month contract with Frysztak-based club Strzelec. The left-handed paddler is awaiting his visa and will be joining the club in the period between the Commonwealth Games (July 2-Aug 3) and Asian Games (Sep 19-Oct 4).

Shetty will be joining former national champion Anthony Amalraj at the club albeit in the lower division. Amalraj plays in the super division with the likes of World No. 61 Wang Zengyi and number 74 Gorak Daniel.

"It is a very important moment in my career. I was looking for a European club for a long time and it has finally happened. I was close to getting a deal in France last year but my visa was not cleared. With my India teammate already playing overseas, it was imperative for me to train and compete against foreign players on a regular basis," Shetty told PTI from Patiala where the CWG-bound India squad is training under German coach Peter Engel.

Shetty`s younger teammates Soumyajit Ghosh and Harmeet Desai have been playing league in Sweden for the past two seasons while the country`s top player, Sharath Kamal, is in Germany with reputed club Borussia Dusseldorf.

Mumbai-based Shetty will play 16 matches in the first season and sees himself competing in the super division the following year.

"The federation sends us for tournaments abroad but the number is not enough. We play a tournament or two and come back home to train, and then again we are playing tough first round matches without enough match practice. There is simply not sufficient international exposure. Playing in Poland will help me prepare better for international tourneys," felt Shetty, who did well to qualify for the ITTF Japan Open last month.

The World No. 250 is looking to gain 100 places by the end of 2014 and eager to give his best in the Commonwealth Games. The competition will see a doubles fixture in the best of five team matches and he is practising alongside Sharath, who won the men`s doubles gold with Subhajit Saha in Delhi 2010.

"Really looking forward to my first Commonwealth Games. I think we have a stronger team than 2010 and we should surely perform better than what we managed last time. There will be doubles rubber to go with singles this time, it could end up being the decisive match," added Shetty.

The stylish player is the first national champion from Mumbai after the great Kamlesh Mehta.

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