New Delhi, June 6: The league culture in Indian sports is gradually picking up and helping the country take positive leaps towards estabilishing it as a sporting powerhouse in the years to come. The phenomenal success of Indian Premier Leauge (cricket), Indian Super League (football) and Pro Kabaddi League (kabaddi) is a testimony to the fact that Indian audiences have accepted these home-grown leagues with open arms.
Such leagues offer a platform to the Indian athletes to not just showcase their talents but also learn from some of the best in business and enhance their skill sets. Interaction with the best in the world provides them with the confidence to compete well at global stage.
It has prompted the broadcasters and organisers to chart out plans to organise leagues for other sports as well and cater to the audiences. The Ultimate Table Tennis League is one of the newest additions to the league culture in Indian sports. Even though the league is in the nascent stage and only three years old, it has already changed the face of Indian table tennis.
From bringing in world class players, giving exposure to Indian players, the league has played a huge role in the recent upturn of the sport in India. Apart from these, the UTT has successfully helped corporate come and support the sport and turning in into a TV sport. Indian paddlers have started showing positive signs as they are putting up stellar performances in big tournaments.
To know about the growth and impact of UTT on Indian Table Tennis, MyKhel sent a questionnaire to Mr Kailash Kandpal, CEO of InsureKot Sports Pvt Ltd, holding company that owns Puneri Paltan Table Tennis in the Ultimate Table Tennis; and Mr Kamlesh Mehta, eight-time national table tennis champion, Arjuna awardee and Director of 11 Sports.
Here are the excerpts from their responses:
MyKhel: How has the growth of the sport been in India since the introduction of Ultimate Table Tennis?
Kamlesh Mehta, eight-time national table tennis champion and Arjuna awardee: India's table tennis players have started to perform very well at the international level and their rankings have improved. The performances of top players including Achanta Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan and Manika Batra is inspiring players at the junior level to come up and reach that level. Also, it is great to see that around 25 Indian players are currently ranked in top-100 in various categories.
Indian TT has come a long way. The performance has been really good for TT players from India especially in 2018 CWG and the 2018 Asian Games. We have won record eight medals including gold medals in both men and women team competition at Gold Coast CWG. Winning two bronze medals at the Asian was a huge achievement.
MK: What is the impact of UTT on the game?
Kamlesh Mehta: From the Indian point of view, it has helped the players a lot. Spending time with top players, training, learning, playing with them and discussing strategies with them has developed self-belief among the home players, especially youngsters.
Also, table tennis is been shown on television at such a level for the first time. It is viewer-friendly and exciting.
MK: What are you doing to promote table tennis at the grassroots level so that a talent pool can be developed for the future?
Kailash Kandpal, CEO of InsureKot Sports Pvt Ltd.: Ultimate Table Tennis is one of the promising leagues and Insurekot Sports Pvt Ltd is committed to developing sports at the grassroots level. UTT has raised the bar of Indian Table Tennis. It develops talent at the grassroots and enables competitiveness among Indian players.
Insurekot Sports is committed to developing sports at the grassroots level. We have plans of organising table tennis tournaments in schools, colleges and corporates of Pune. Puneri Paltan Table Tennis is not just a team of Pune, but it represents the spirit of Maharashtra.
MK: What are the plans to make the game more popular?
Kailash Kandpal: As an organisation, we are committed to encouraging sports. When 11Sports approached us to pick a team in Pune, we were excited as it gives our sports venture a natural extension as we have a Pune Kabbadi team in Vivo Pro Kabbadi League.
UTT is an enabler that has given the Indian TT players a platform to perform better in the international circuit. It develops talent at the grassroots, enables competitiveness among Indian players, entertains and engages fans.
MK: Are there plans to rope in some celebrities to make the league/game more popular?
Kailash Kandpal: There are no plans to rope in celebrities yet.
MK: In how many years, do you think the league will make an impact on the game? Also, is it helping the Indian players as they are getting a chance to interact and learn from the best players, coaches in the world?
Kailash Kandpal: The league, in its small ways, is making an impact on the game in terms of awareness and wide reach of the game. UTT has also helped improve players' performance in international matches in the form of exposure to the technique from various foreign players and coaches.