Sharath hopes to maintain ranking

Last Updated: Jan 18, 2011, 22:01 PM IST

Kolkata: India`s number one paddler Achanta
Sharath Kamal hopes to maintain his world ranking till June to
secure an Olympic berth.

Having made to the no 2 club in Germany, Ochsenhausen,
the current world ranked 40 said it was really big to get a
base in the European nation where the practice condition is
excellent.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 72nd Senior
National table tennis championship here, the Commonwealth
Games doubles gold medallist said: "At the moment I am looking
to qualify for the Olympics directly. This is going to happen
by June 1. By then I should be within top 40 in the world."

Twenty eight direct entries with two from each country
will secure an Olympic berth. "If someone else also can make
it, we can have a chance in the team competition," he said.

"The Federation is also trying to help me to play the
pro-tours. After this I have the England Open and the Qatar
Open, where I am defending some points. Playing well in these
tournaments will help me defend some points to remain in the
top 40."

He said it was tough to make a club in Germany where only
one foreigner is allowed per club. He had to wait till he won
the Egypt Open.

"It`s the strongest nation in Europe. Germany are also
the Olympics silver medallist. I get good practice partners
and good practice conditions. Basically the players are very
strong there and so is the system," he said.

Kamal said, "I wanted to go to Germany in 2009. But I
couldn`t, as I was too weak for the league. Even being World
No 70, I was weak for the league.

"Because only one foreign player is allowed for a club
and generally that place is occupied by a Chinese, Japanese or
a Korean. So even if an Indian is good, the Chinese are
preferred because of their brand value. So that was one thing
why I couldn`t get in."

Kamal ended the year 2010 on a high having won a five
star tournament in Egypt Open beside his victories in US Open,
a Commonwealth Games doubles gold with Subhajit Saha and a
bronze in the team event.

"Luckily I could get in because I won the US Open and
the Egypt Open. With it I broke into the top 50 in the world.
Then they started taking note of me," the unassuming Sharath
Kamal said.

"Even in the beginning I had to struggle. All the clubs
were not ready to take me until the last club. But even there
I had to make a lot of sacrifices. But I didn`t hesitate as I
wanted to get a footing into the German system," he said.

"It`s the second-best club in Europe. I am paying a rent
of 200 Euros for the flat I am staying in. I had been staying
in a studio room, but the club gave me a bigger flat. So, I am
lucky on that part," he said.

Asked about the Indians` performance, Sharath Kamal said
things were improving in the academic-oriented nation where
sport was never a first priority.

"The Indians lack on the fitness side only. As far as the
mental side is concerned we are better than the rest. Given a
50-50 situation, when we have to pull it off, we Indians pull
it off.”

"Sports have developed since the new millennium. A lot of
people have the passion for sports. But due to studies or for
their profession, they have to give up on sports. We are
getting better, we are developing," he said.

Recalling about his early days of 1993, he said, in terms
of infrastructure things were improving.

"When I played my first national camp (in 1993) and
compared to what conditions these guys are getting now is
vastly different. They are playing on red floor (synthetic
floor) which is expensive but available everywhere now.”

"We used to play on slippery wooden floors. I played
on floors where it was difficult to stand. From that sort of
an infrastructre, we have gone to a position where we are
hosting the Commonwealth Games. It shows the outlook towards
sports has developed. We are gradually turning professional.
Hope our performance inspires others," he signed off.

PTI