Mudit Dani interview: After breaking into top 200 of world rankings, young paddler aims to stay hungry
Mudit Dani speaks on his journey from the day he was spotted by a former national player while he was playing in his grandmother's building compound to breaking into top 200 in world rankings.
Young paddler Mudit Dani broke into the top 200 of the world rankings earlier this month, becoming the sixth-highest ranked Indian. What makes this feat extraordinary? Maybe the fact that, when he made his debut in the senior circuit, in August 2018, he was ranked 774. In less than 24 months, the paddler has covered quite a distance. Not to forget, he was also only the third Indian to storm into top 10 rankings at the junior level.
And it all started with a keen onlooker advising him to take up the sport at his maternal grandmother's residence, in 2006, after watching him play in the building compound. That man turned out to be his grandmother's good friend and also a former national table tennis player - Ratish Chachad.
From there, Chachad became his coach and Dani started pursuing the sport professionally, but he had not yet set a long term plan as far as table tennis was concerned.
In his journey, there are two women who have played a major role in him becoming who he is. His nani (maternal grandmother) helped him take up the sport, in a way and then it was his dadi (paternal grandmother), who helped him recover from a career-threatening shoulder injury at the age of 13.
The injury was so grave that even his doctor was unable to fix it. And that was the time when his dadi came to the rescue and asked him to join her yoga centre which she used to run.
"I did a few days of yoga and felt good. I don't know if it was really helping or it was just my head which thought it was getting better. But it seemed to be getting better.
So, I went to Pune (yoga centre run by BKS Iyengar) and I did three sessions with them for a few days and some sort of magic happened. There were unbelievably complicated things. What he made me do hurt me. I used to go through a lot of pain but in ten days, I was back to normal and in the next ten days, I was back to playing the TT," he said.
The last year has been good for Dani and his jump in rankings has been a result of that. Winning his first ITTF medal last year in December at US Open definitely helped his cause. But the win may not have been possible as he was on the verge of pulling out of the competition due to a back injury, just four days before the event.
"I did not really see it coming. Five days before the tournament, I had a niggle in my back. It is just a niggle. But taking rest five days before a tournament is not ideal so I was considering pulling out. My coach suggested the same," he said.
However, Dani's form and confidence had not been jarred by the small injury and he backed himself and carried and took part in the competition. He won the medal in the men's doubles competition to end the year on a high note.
The lockdown has put him in the confines of his home. With no table at home, Dani is planning to work on the training program developed by his coach and trainer.
"We (the coach and him) made a plan earlier this year, considering I will be in top 200, that which tournament to play. A tentative schedule was planned. But we knew with things worsening due to the virus, there will be a lockdown. Now to make the jump, it will require more hard work," he said.
"(At home), I'm focussing on agility, strength and power. I am putting two to three-and-a-half hours of physical work every day. I don't have a table at home, so I cannot do any of that practice. But I am focussing on physical fitness."
Dani is hopeful that there may be some time left for sports this year and is making sure he is ready whenever that 'jump' is to be taken. The target he has in his mind: to break into top 175 rankings by the end of the year.
But the bigger goal is something else.
"The 2022 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are big goals for me. These are Championships which are two years away but I will give my best to see myself in the squad."