As the city prepares to host some of the best paddlers from the country, Mumbai's first international table tennis tournament in 30 years, national coach and eight-time national champion Kamlesh Mehta goes back in time to explain why the sport has gone down in Mumbai, while also explaining the significance of the forthcoming tournament to Sportsline.
Excerpts from an interview:
Now that an international tournament will be hosted in Mumbai after 30 years, who will benefit from it the most?
The Indian players will be the biggest beneficiaries, particularly the local players from Mumbai and Maharashtra. It's very expensive for the players to go abroad to play and get exposed to foreign conditions. As a result, lots of talented players don't get a chance to play much. But now that the tournament is happening here, it has opened the doors to all the local players and it will help them to improve their game and will give them some experience of playing on an international stage. Importantly, since it is a ranking tournament, it'll help the youngsters here earn ranking points.
Are there any big foreign players coming for the tournament?
The foreign players are relatively unknown, but that does not mean they will be easy to beat. The Chinese are always very competitive but the Indian contingent is not bad either. Since neither has played the other, it'll be interesting to see how they react since they haven't played together before.
Will this junior event be followed by a senior one?
There is always a hope for that. We are testing the waters with this one and if all goes well, we can start preparing for a senior one.
While there is a difference between the quality of table tennis between the junior and senior groups, the organisers have to work equally hard for either level. It took us 30 years to bring an international tournament to Mumbai, so maybe if this goes well, we will have a good chance of getting a senior tournament here soon.
Was Mumbai ever considered a hub for table tennis?
Mumbai used to be the home for table tennis in India for a