New Delhi: Indian table tennis delivered its best ever Commonwealth Games (CWG) performance in Gold Coast and the one season old professional league Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) can claim a tiny bit of credit for it, says the event's owner Vita Dani.
Last year, table tennis joined the long list of sports including cricket, football, and badminton to invest in a professional league.
UTT became the first professional table-tennis league in India and saw Indian paddlers compete with several world-class players.
"I wouldn't want to take away the full credit from the players for their CWG performance as at the end of the day it was their hard work. We just made an additional platform for them to compete and I think it definitely helped in increasing the confidence level," Dani told PTI.
India topped the TT medal chart at the Gold Coast, claiming three gold, two silver and three bronze medals with Manika Batra doing the star turn, picking up two gold, a silver, and a bronze.
"To get the exposure of playing with the best of the world certainly helps and there is no debate about it. UTT has been able to attract some great talent and more than that it has helped the Indian talent to shine more than anyone else," Dani said.
UTT is back for its second season, with a bigger talent pool, including Chinese Taipei's ace paddler Chih Yuan Chuang, World No 12 Frenchman Simon Gauzy and Japan's Sakura Mori.
However, the league is yet to have participation from heavyweights China, Germany or Singapore.
"We are getting the best of talents, we can't accommodate everyone. It's a league which can have a limited number of player and the talent pool is undebatable in terms of quality of players," said Dani, who is also the co-promoter of UTT.
After the inaugural edition of the league received lukewarm spectator-support in some venues, the organisers — 11Sports and the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) — have decided to try out Kolkata and Pune this time.
"We believe in taking the game to the people, we can't keep having the game at the same venue we would rather take it to different markets and geographical regions.
"Just like Tamil Nadu is strong in TT, so is West Bengal. We need to go to different places. If we want to popularise the sport, we need to venture out," Dani said.
In order to make the league more compact and competitive, the organisers have also tweaked the format.
"We have changed and worked on the format. We have reduced the number of matches in each tie from nine to seven. We are constantly trying to innovate and help out the Indian talent," Dani said.
The innovations in UTT have also caught the eye of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
"We adopted the concept of Golden Point (If a game is tied at 10 points each, the 11th point — Golden Point — will be the decider) which is also being considered by the ITTF. It can perhaps add value and excitement to the game," Dani said.
Asked if UTT can become as popular as the Premier Badminton League (PBL) at least, Dani said she is hopeful.
"I don't want to compare TT to any other sport because I believe multiple sports need to co-exist and multiple sports need to be supported and developed.
"(Pullela) Gopichand has been supporting and nurturing his talents for eight years we are doing it for two years. I don't want to compare. Paddlers are doing well. It's just a step in the right direction," Dani said.
Updated Date: Jun 10, 2018 17:48 PM